Tuesday, January 20, 2015

NHL Central Scouting Midterm Rankings for 2015

NHL Central Scouting released their midterm rankings today. Here's a look at how they ranked OHL players. And here's my midterm top 50 as a comparison.

Skaters

1. Connor McDavid (1)
2. Lawson Crouse (4)
3. Dylan Strome (5)
4. Mitchell Marner (7)
5. Pavel Zacha (8)
6. Travis Konecny (26)
7. Mitchell Vande Sompel (33)
8. Nikita Korostelev (41)
9. Blake Speers (41)
10. Travis Dermott (47)
11. Matt Spencer (51)
12. Vince Dunn (53)
13. Graham Knott (54)
14. Zachary Senyshyn (56)
15. Kyle Capobianco (67)
16. Gustaf Bouramman (68)
17. Rasmus Andersson (84)
18. Anthony Cirelli (88)
19. Chris Martenet (92)
20. Matt Luff (95)
21. Ethan Szypula (96)
22. Thomas Schemitsch (98)
23. Roy Radke (111)
24. Mitchell Stephens (113)
25. Pius Suter (116)
26. Hayden McCool (117)
27. Justin Lemcke (119)
28. Brett McKenzie (124)
29. Jeremiah Addison (127)
30. Nick Betz (129)
31. Tyler MacAthur (135)
32. Trent Fox (143)
33. Dante Salituro (145)
34. Andrew Mangiapane (147)
35. Gustaf Franzen (151)
36. Brandon Lindberg (153)
37. Colton White (154)
38. David Miller (158)
39. Artem Artemov (159)
40. Cameron Lizotte (171)
41. Brandon Crawley (173)
42. Petrus Palmu (180)
43. Stephen Desrocher (181)
44. Adam Laishram (186)
45. Garrett McFadden (193)
46. Marcus Crawford (195)
Limited Viewing - Connor Schlichting
Limited Viewing - Jarett Meyer

Goaltenders

1. Mackenzie Blackwood (1)
2. Michael McNiven (6)
3. Connor Hicks (10)
4. Liam Herbst (14)
5. Jeremy Helvig (17)
6. Jack Flinn (26)
7. Zack Bowman (27)

To see the full list, GO HERE.

My thoughts…

1. Lots of banter about Lawson Crouse being ranked so high. It's not a surprise. As I've said, he's one of those guys that scouts are going to rank higher than the general opinion (because of his size and how well rounded his game is). That said, I still take Mitchell Marner ahead of him (where as Strome is debatable). Marner's ranking isn't a huge surprise, as Central Scouting has long been the type to value size more than anything.

2. Biggest discrepancies between my list and NHLCS:
Higher:
Anthony Cirelli (+23)
Chris Martenet (+29)
Ethan Szypula (+18)
Brandon Lindberg (+15)
Lower:
Sam Harding: (-24)
Jesse Barwell (-17)
Justin Lemcke (-12)
Brett McKenzie (-10)
Colton White (-12)
Marcus Crawford (-17)

3. Of those discrepancies, I'm really surprised about a few of them. Sam Harding not being listed is a bit of a shocker, especially when they've ranked Adam Laishram (another guy I really like), who's a pretty similar player but smaller. I don't get why Justin Lemcke is so low too. He's a really solid prospect IMO and there's no question that I would take him over some of the other guys listed ahead of him. Ditto for Colton White. He deserves to be much higher. Anyone who follows the OHL closely is extremely high on him because of his high potential. In terms of the higher ranked guys, Chris Martenet is an intriguing  project because of his size, but he doesn't deserve to be ranked that high right now.

4. Central Scouting really isn't a fan of what the OHL has to offer this year it seems. Only 16 OHL skaters in the top 80. Compare that to last year where the OHL had 28 players ranked inside the top 80 (at midterm). The drop from Zacha to Konecny is also quite large according to their scouts.

5. Some quality "re-entry" guys on the list this year. And that's deserving. The OHL has some quality second and third year eligible prospects with a shot at getting drafted. A bit shocked to not see Damir Sharipzyanov, Matt Schmalz, and Ken Appleby listed though, as I'd consider them just as strong of candidates as the others listed.



Saturday, January 10, 2015

2015 OHL Trade Deadline Report Cards

OHL players can now sleep easy as the 2015 OHL trade deadline has come and gone. Many players have said goodbyes. In January alone, 46 OHL players traded places. But with a new team often comes new and rewarding challenges. Many of these players will get the chance to play deeper into the playoffs and perhaps win an OHL championship. While others will receive increased responsibility and ice time in hopes of catching the eye of NHL scouts.

Many of the teams in the league were active in the past month. Several teams (Erie, SSM, Oshawa, North Bay) loaded up for deep playoff runs. Other teams (Kitchener, Owen Sound, Peterborough, etc) made moves to help solidify a playoff spot and give their younger players much needed playoff experience.

For this article, I'm cutting off trades at Christmas. So any trades made before Christmas won't be factored into a teams grade. No sense assessing a team's ability to trade over the course of the season.

Let's do some grading!

Eastern Conference

Barrie Colts
In: Stephen Nosad, Ben Harpur, Chadd Bauman
Out: Draft picks (2, 2, 5, 10, 10), Givani Smith, CJ Garcia
Report: Quite frankly, I'm a bit surprised that the Colts didn't do more. They're playing such good hockey lately, I figured that they'd really go for it in the Eastern Conference. Mackenzie Blackwood is playing as good as any goalie in the league right now and on any given night, they've got a chance to win. They did do a good job of bringing more size to their blue line with Harpur and Bauman (if he sticks on the blue line) and they realize that, that will be necessary to beat the likes of Oshawa and North Bay (who got much bigger up front). That said, I wasn't crazy about the price they paid. Barrie has traded away their first rounder nine times in the last twelve years. In that time frame they've got 2 Eastern Conference titles, but zero OHL Championships to their name. With many of their top players set to move on next year (Blandisi, Laser, Hooey, Harpur, and possibly Lebanc), I thought that they'd do more if they traded away one of, or both of their former firsts (Smith and Kreis)
GRADE: B-

Belleville Bulls
In: Trent Fox, Jesse Saban, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 6)
Out: Remi Elie, Jake Marchment
Report: The Bulls only made one deal but boy was it a big one. They sent out their former captain (was expected) and their offensive leader and got a massive return. The Bulls are right in the middle of the Eastern Conference right now so I'm sure there are questions as to why they would make this type of move. But I'm sure they realize that they're not going to beat one of the top teams in the East this year and they've got a solid group of '96's and '97's to build on moving forward. For Elie and Marchment, they got back just that. Two quality 97's in Fox and Saban who fit right in with their core. They've got some young players like Laishram, Saigeon, and Luff, who are ready for increased responsibility and should be able to fill in adequately. The Bulls will likely still make the playoffs this year, all the while building for the future. Definitely a WIN.
GRADE: A-

Kingston Frontenacs
In: Draft picks (2, 2, 3, 4, 5), Cody Caron, Jared Steege, Nathan Billitier
Out: Reagan O'Grady, Draft picks (6, 6), Ryan Kujawinski
Report: Not very often you see a team fighting for the playoffs move their recent first rounder (O'Grady), but he had asked for a trade so Gilmour's hands were tied. They ultimately got a decent return for the former captain of the OHL Cup champion Toronto Marlboros. The quality of the return for Ryan Kujawinski remains a bit of a mystery. Nathan Billitier is the key to this, as the former U.S. Development team member left Notre Dame for the Fronts. He's a '96 and has several years left in the league. If he can develop into a top four defender for Kingston, this trade is a win for the Fronts. Ultimately, I do think that Kingston should have moved Evan McEneny as they're not going to be much a playoff team this year (even if Sam Bennett makes a miraculous recovery) and their roster is built for a run next year and the year after.
Grade: B-

Mississauga Steelheads
In: Jacob Brennan (off waivers from the Q), Draft pick (6)
Out: Lucas Venuto
Report: I don't quite get this one. Earlier this year the Steelheads went all in, giving up a boatload of draft picks (and a quality younger player in Barwell) for Jimmy Lodge and Brandon Devlin. Then they do nothing at the deadline and settle for mediocrity (at best). Sure, it was AWFUL luck losing Spencer Martin. But after you've already dealt prime assets for 1 and done players (in their final year in the league, at least likely in Lodge's case), you can't throw in the towel. I'm sure Jacob Brennan will supply the team with some stability in net and he at least has playoff experience in the Q. But, who is going to play goal next year? The team missed the opportunity to acquire a '95 like Alex Fotinos, who not only could provide decent goaltending this year, but could also tend the net next year as an overager. They could have then used their other overage spot on a quality blue liner like Jeff Corbett from Sudbury, who could help to stabilize a very inconsistent (and somewhat soft) defensive unit? This Steelheads team is no guarantee to make the playoffs this year and even if they do, they're going to set themselves up to face a team they can't beat in the first round. By making some subtle moves, they could have given themselves the edge for the 4th spot in the East and at least had the opportunity to get into the 2nd round.
GRADE: D

Niagara IceDogs
In: Draft pick (6)
Out: Cody Caron
Report: The Dogs made most of their moves earlier this year when they acquired Josh Ho-Sang and Brandon Hope. And don't look now but Niagara has 7 wins in their last 10 (including 4 in a row). With the return of Brendan Perlini, the Dogs look much more dangerous and are poised to make a run up the Eastern Conference standings. In fact, I'd be surprised if they don't end up in the top 6 of the Conference by the end of the season. That said, this is a trade deadline review and the Dogs remained relatively silent. The team still lacks the depth and size up front to battle with the big boys of the East right now. I'm surprised that Marty Williamson didn't acquire another top 9 forward with size who could help the team make that playoff push. The team has a defensive surplus and could have used that to improve their team. A guy like Ryan Kujawinski, for example, would have looked great in an IceDogs uniform. The good news is, that the majority of the team will remain intact next year when they'll have another go at taking the East.
GRADE: C+

North Bay Battalion
In: Ryan Kujawinski, Nick Moutrey, Draft pick (6)
Out: Evan Cormier, Jared Steege, Nathan Billiiter, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 4, 4)
Report: The Battalion went into this trade deadline with really only one need. Adding depth and skill to their top 6. And they accomplished that…and then some. Nick Moutrey was one of the most improved players in the league this year. His size, speed, and two way play make him the perfect Stan Butler player. And Kujawinski has that same potential, which he was never really able to fully realize in Kingston. Last year, North Bay was able to capture the East with the same formula that they're employing this year. None of their top 6 forwards are under 6'1 and they're going to battle you to the end. And while the package for Moutrey was insane…the team really didn't give up a ton for Kujawinski. Steege was a role player for the team and Nathan Billitier was an NCAA player with no intent to suit up for North Bay. It was definitely a terrific deadline for Stan Butler and co.
GRADE: A

Oshawa Generals
In: Matt Mistele, Jason DaSilva, Michael McCarron, Dakota Mermis, Brent Pedersen
Out: Cliff Pu, Josh Sterk, Chase Pearson, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4 6, 10)
Report: Talk about loading up. Wow. I don't think I've ever seen a team give up so many draft picks in one small time frame. But the talent they brought in is legitimate. All three of Mistele, McCarron, and Pedersen have been better this year and represent massive bodies who can also create offence. I wasn't crazy about the package they gave up for Pedersen, but he's a likely candidate to return as an overager so that will help ease some of the pain. Between the likes of Mistele, McCarron, Dal Colle, and Hunter Smith, the Generals have four massive wingers who will be hard to contain down low. And Mermis definitely helps to solidify the back end, a unit which was talented, but also relatively inexperienced. This team is going to be a monster to battle with in the playoffs. Look out Eastern Conference. On the downside, what are the Generals' scouts going to do in the next 3 years?
GRADE: A

Ottawa 67's
In: Curtis Meighan, Draft picks (2, 3), Adam Craievich
Out: Draft picks (8, 8), Erik Bradford, Tyler Hill
Report: Quite frankly, I'm surprised that the 67's moved Bradford. The 67's have been playing some good hockey of late and seem to have the inside track on the 4th spot in the East. That said, I don't mind them doing it. There's no way that the team will be able to beat one of the beasts of the East in the playoffs, so why not pick up some assets for players who won't be around next year, when the team has a chance to capture the East? The acquisition of Craievich is definitely an astute one. He continues to show flashes of developing into a quality OHL player, but his ice time and development in Guelph seemed to have stalled. He could be a big time player down the road if a new team really lights a fire under him (improving skating is the key).
GRADE: B

Peterborough Petes
In: Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 10), Nathan Pancel, Kyle Jenkins
Out: Nick Ritchie, Anthony Stefano, Connor Boland, Jason DaSilva, Stephen Nosad, Draft pick (2, 2, 3)
Report: I actually kind of like what Peterborough did. Here's the question you have to ask yourself. Did Peterborough really get worse by adding Jenkins and Pancel, while trading all the players they did? I don't think so. Jenkins is a quality OHL defender who'll be around for another year and Pancel replaces the goal scoring ability of Ritchie. Yet, they acquired a boat load of draft picks which they can use to either acquire pieces next year, or draft players in the future (the one 2nd they picked up will likely be one of the first of the round). I was a bit disappointed in the Ritchie return (considering what Nick Moutrey brought back), but that's nitpicking. Bottom line is that the Petes picked up a ton of youth (a couple of seconds), made their team better next year (with Jenkins), and really didn't get much worse this year. They've got a chance to squeak into the playoffs to give their young (but talented) defence some experience.
GRADE: B+

Sudbury Wolves
In: Charley Graaskamp, Draft picks (2, 3), Reagan O'Grady
Out: Draft picks (2, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5), Nathan Pancel
Report: Sort of an odd deadline for the Wolves. As a rebuilding team, they actually traded out draft picks and acquired more players than they sent packing. That said, it's not like they went and picked up overages. They took a chance on a couple of young players looking for a fresh start. Graaskamp has the potential to be a top 6 player eventually and was a good low buy. O'Grady was Kingston's first rounder  and they got him without giving up a really early pick (the 2nd they gave up is Plymouth's in 2017 and isn't likely to be an early one in the round IMO). Considering that the team's weakest area is on defence, it's a solid gamble. And they got those picks back in the Pancel trade. So it's almost like exchanging Pancel for O'Grady. Not bad. I do think that they messed up by not dealing Jeff Corbett, even if it was just for a 3rd (not sure how large the market was for him).
GRADE: B


Western Conference

Erie Otters
In: Remi Elie, Jake Marchment, Draft pick (12)
Out: Joel Wigle, Trent Fox, Jesse Saban, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 6)
Report: Really like the forwards that Erie brought in (especially when you consider the Baptiste acquisition earlier in the year). The Otters knew that they had to get bigger and more skilled on the wing and they did that. Guys like Elie, Marchment, and Baptiste are going to help to clear space for McDavid, Strome, Debrincat, etc. In the playoffs, that's going to go a long way to helping Erie get to the Western finals. Their defence is fine and didn't need upgrades, but I know most people were expecting the Otters to go after a goaltender. Devin Williams hasn't been consistently sharp this year, at least not to the level that he played last year. Hopefully he's able to turn his game around by the time March rolls around. Meanwhile, Remi Elie may finally get the respect he deserves as an NHL prospect, while playing with a more talented playmaker (he's lining up beside Dylan Strome right now).
GRADE: B+

Guelph Storm
In: CJ Garcia, Givani Smith, Tyler Hill, Ryan Foss, Draft pick (2, 2, 5, 8, 10)
Out: Ben Harpur, Chadd Bauman, Adam Craievich, Draft pick (5)
Report: I like what the Storm did this year at the deadline. They saw no reason to jump into the arms race with the other teams in the West, so they capitalized on a sellers market and got great value for Harpur and Bauman. Garcia has improved this year and will be a top 4 defender in the OHL for the next couple of years. And Smith, if he can develop into something similar to his brother, he'll be an incredibly valuable asset for Guelph. Add in Tyler Hill and Ryan Foss, and you help with the team's lack of depth at forward (which I think has been an issue this year). They're still a strong enough team to compete for 3rd in the Western Conference and should still have a good chance of making it into the 2nd round of the OHL playoffs.
GRADE: B+

Kitchener Rangers
In: Jake Paterson, David Miller, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 8)
Out: Curtis Meighan, Justin Bailey, Brent Pedersen, Draft picks (2, 3)
Report: The Rangers have taken a lot of flak for their moves at the deadline (or non moves) and I don't agree with it. Look at it this way…would you trade Brent Pedersen for Jake Paterson, a 2nd, and conditional 3rd and 4th? I sure as hell would. The 3rd spot in the Western Conference is still completely up for grabs and the Rangers goaltending just has not been getting it done. By bringing in Paterson, the Rangers give themselves a chance to grab that spot and maybe even get themselves into the 2nd round of the playoffs. If you intend to make noise next year (which I'm sure the Rangers intend to do with a solid group of '96's), you want guys like Ryan MacInnis, Nick Magyar, Gus Franzen, Adam Mascherin, etc, to get playoff experience. Was I surprised that the Rangers were the eventual destination of Paterson? Big time. Do I disagree with management's intent? Not at all. The same reason they acquired Paterson is the same reason that they didn't deal Max Iafrate. And not only did the Rangers do amazon in the Pedersen deal, but I thought they did great in the Bailey deal too. I'm a big fan of David Miller and I think he's going to flourish with increased ice time.
GRADE: A-

London Knights
In: Josh Sterk, Cliff Pu, Joel Wigle, Draft picks (2, 2, 3, 7)
Out: Mike McCarron, Dakota Mermis, Josh DeFarias, Draft pick (12)
Report: The Knights made some small moves surrounded by the big one that sent McCarron and Mermis to Oshawa. If I'm being quite frank, I was slightly disappointed by the return that the Knights received in the deal. That's not saying that Sterk and Pu are bad players. Sterk is a great pick up because he's a likely overage candidate in a few years and will continue to be a top 6 player. And Pu is a former first rounder. But when you look at the amount of picks guys like Bailey and Moutrey brought back (on top of including young players in the deals), I don't think the Knights did quite as well. And while Wigle is a very sound and cheap pick up (to hopefully replicate McCarron's success on a scoring line), I do think that their overage spot would have been better spent on a defenseman who could help shore up their inexperienced blue line. The Knights do have one of the best farm systems in the league right now, but I'm not sure they maximized their ability to rebuild a bit. Meanwhile, they're going to have to really play well to keep home ice advantage, especially since their a worse team after the deadline and others stayed the same or got better. I know that it's not about this year for London (who have already overachieved over what people expected them to), and Sterk and Pu are good players, so maybe it's just nitpicking too.
GRADE: B-

Owen Sound Attack
In: Erik Bradford, Liam Dunda
Out: Draft picks (2, 3, 3, 4)
Report: Two subtle pick ups by the Attack, but I absolutely love them. Bradford gives the Attack another top 6 forward, especially while Holden Cook heals. He has tons of playoff experience and is a very responsible two-way player. And Dunda, a late '97 (eligible for next year's draft) is a big kid who has a ton of potential. He's a little awkward right now, but could develop into a top 6 power forward given the right nudge. For what they gave up for him, it was a worthy gamble. I think at this point, I expect Owen Sound to surge in the second half, possibly even gaining the 3rd spot in the West. This is a team that has good goaltending, and a lot of size and tenacity up front and on the blue line. In a lot of ways, they remind me of North Bay last year. I wouldn't want to play them in the playoffs.
GRADE: A-

Plymouth Whalers
In: Ryan Moore, Draft picks (2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 6)
Out: Liam Dunda, Matt Mistele
Report: It's been quite the year for Plymouth…and I mean that in the worst possible way. Just about nothing has gone right for them this year. The season ending injury to Alex Peters. The constant injury problems. The inconsistent play from Alex Nedeljkovic. This was supposed to be one of the best teams in the Western conference and instead they may finish dead last. So what do they do? Sell off prime assets and build for the future? Pick up a few pieces in hopes that when people return to health, the team plays better? Quite the crossroads. The Whalers didn't really do either. I'm underwhelmed by the return on Mistele, who is the same calibre of player as Moutrey and Bailey. He actually has a chance to return as an overager too. And dealing Dunda was a mistake IMO. Now, I do expect Plymouth to play better in the second half. In fact I wouldn't even be surprised if they slipped into the playoffs. But they won't be beating Erie or Sault Ste. Marie in the first round. I think they would have been better off dealing a few other guys like Chatham, Curcuruto, Jones, Campagna, and even Milano (who I could see in the AHL next year ala JT Miller). The only thing I agreed with was not dealing Alex Nedeljkovic, as I think they could get way more for him in the offseason when more teams will need a goaltending upgrade. Just a lost season for Plymouth.
GRADE: D+

Saginaw Spirit
In: Vladislav Kodola, Evan Cormier, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4)
Out: Jake Paterson, Nick Moutrey, Draft pick (5)
Report: If you're going to rebuild, you should probably do it right. The Saginaw Spirit did that this year. They fully committed to the rebuild, traded all valuable veterans, and set themselves up well for the foreseeable future. The haul for Moutrey was legendary. Evan Cormier is a great young goaltender who should blossom with more responsibility in Saginaw. He definitely has the potential to be the team's future starter. And while I'm not supposed to talk about previous trades, it should be noted that the Spirit did exceptionally well in the Jimmy Lodge deal too. The Spirit may not be very good for the rest of the year, but they've set themselves up to be VERY good in a couple of years. And isn't that what a rebuild is all about. If you're going to do something right, you've got to fully commit to it. The only thing worth mentioning is that I was a bit underwhelmed by the Paterson return. But the market just wasn't huge for him (as an overage goaltender) and they probably did well under the circumstances.
GRADE: A-

Sarnia Sting
In: Anthony Salinitri, Josh DeFarias, Draft picks (2, 2, 4, 5)
Out: Anthony DeAngelo, Vladislav Kodola, Draft pick (7)
Report: Similar to Guelph, the Sting realized that their young line up just wouldn't be ready to battle the cream of the Conference. They may be a playoff team, but that doesn't mean they are serious contenders to go far in the playoffs. It's the notion of one step back, but two steps forward. Dealing DeAngelo made sense for Sarnia, given that nearly everyone in their line up (save Taylor Dupuis and Josh Chapman) is set to return next year. In return, they get Salinitri, a quality young center who gives the Sting two quality '98 centres to built around (along with Kyrou).
GRADE: B+

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
In: Anthony DeAngelo, Nick Ritchie, Connor Boland, Justin Bailey, Draft picks (4, 4)
Out: David Miller, Anthony Salinitri, Kyle Jenkins, Charley Graaskamp, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4)
Report: You have to applaud first year GM Kyle Raftis. He showed some serious cajones by going all in, in his first year as GM. Hopefully it goes better than Dubas' first big deal (Jack Campbell). That said, I do love what the Greyhounds did. The biggest weakness of the Hounds was their lack of size up front and Raftis addressed that with Ritchie and Bailey. This will definitely help to clear room for Tolchinsky, Speers, McCann, Guertler, etc. I think both players will fit in extremely well. Their defence was already fantastic, but adding DeAngelo and Boland makes them incredible. DeAngelo gives the Hounds another puck mover to take some of the pressure off of Darnell Nurse and first year player Gustaf Bouramman. And Boland gives them a veteran presence and more leadership. He will continue to help the PK too. All in all, a great deadline on paper for the Hounds. Now that just leaves Hounds management with the challenge of continuing to find diamonds in the rough in the draft.
GRADE: A

Windsor Spitfires
In: Chase Pearson, Anthony Stefano, Lucas Venuto, Draft picks (2, 2, 3, 5)
Out: Ryan Moore, Ryan Foss, Draft picks (2, 2, 4, 4, 6, 8)
Report: The draft picks are nearly a wash, so you have to think about it as, would you rather have Anthony Stefano and potentially Chase Pearson, or Ryan Moore and Ryan Foss? Pearson is obviously the big coup here. If the Spits can get him to report (he currently plays for Youngstown of the USHL), he could be a big part of Windsor's future. The big center was a "C" rated prospect in November's Central Scouting rankings and looks like a potential mid round pick in June. The Spits could have went further into the rebuild, but some of the 95's they have (Murphy, Fotinos) figure to play big roles for the team next year as overagers. So I'm fine with the team standing pat in that regard. Let's just see how these new younger players fit into the line up and whether their development goes better than Foss' or Moore's.
GRADE: B-

How do you think your team did at this year's deadline?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Sunday Top 10 - Overagers Worth Signing (2015)


This is a yearly tradition. It's time to take a look at the top overagers in the OHL, available to be signed by NHL teams.

One of the players on this list has already signed an NHL contract, but he is still included because it's meant to be a guide of the top OA free agents this season in the OHL.

Likely half of the players on this list will not end up getting a professional contract and will play in the CIS. It's the nature of the beast. The bottom line is that a few will and many will not (be signed) and those players will take advantage of their education package while continuing to play a high level of hockey at a Canadian University.

Secondly, this list does not include overagers who have yet to sign NHL contracts, despite having their draft rights owned by a team (like Josh Brown). This list is for those players who are (or were) NHL free agents after going through the draft two or three times (depending on birth date).

Here's the list:

10. Gianluca Curcuruto - Defence - Plymouth Whalers
It's been a tough year for the former highly touted Soo Greyhound. Inconsistency has been the name of the game during his OHL career. A fantastic 16-17 year old (rookie) season had him being mentioned as a first round pick. But a brutal sophomore season saw him fall to the 7th round. He followed that up with a fantastic third season, after getting a new start in Plymouth. But last year was not pretty again and the Columbus Blue Jackets chose not to sign him. This year, things got off to a great start for him and he was playing some terrific hockey. Then the big suspension hit (12 games for leveling Travis Konency). And upon returning from that suspension, he injured his shoulder (in November) and hasn't played since. Bottom line is that Curcuruto still has pro potential. Hopefully he's able to return from the shoulder injury and help push the Whalers into the playoffs. As a solid two-way presence, he can impact the game in a lot of ways (as long as he keeps things simple), and he's got the size for the pro game.

9. Max Iafrate - Defence - Kitchener Rangers
The Colorado Avalanche's interest in Iafrate has been no secret. That said, they still haven't signed him (or drafted him previously) after working him out several times. When the year started, I thought Iafrate would be at the top of this list, but his development this year hasn't exactly blown me away. The physical tools are all there. The size (6'2, 220lbs). The skating ability. The ability to play physical. The big shot from the point (he is his father's son). But, the mental lapses still happen, especially with the puck. I think part of the issue has been Kitchener's coaching staff's inability to use him properly (why isn't he on the power play?). If Iafrate attracts pro attention (which he most certainly will), that team would be smart to simplify Iafrate's game, making him more of a stay at home defender. In that role, he could find success.

8. Erik Bradford - Forward - Ottawa 67's
Bradford got off to a slow start this year, but that's to be expected from someone who's rebounding from a broken leg (in the final stretch of last year). Bradford is an accomplished two-way player from his days centering the 3rd line in Barrie. But in Ottawa, he's been allowed to blossom offensively, showcasing his skill set and terrific hockey sense. Over the last few months, he's been one of Ottawa's most consistent forwards and I expect that to continue (and then some) as the season goes on. As a professional, it's a bit unclear as to what type of role he'd play, but given his hockey sense and two-way ability, I'd say there's a chance someone brings him on to figure that out.

7. Matt Rupert - Forward - London Knights
Brother Ryan has enjoyed a lot of success so far at the pro level this season (10 points in 17 games since he was called up to the AHL). So who's to say that Matt isn't capable of being just as effective? Truthfully, their games are modeled very similarly. Work the forecheck and the boards. Create turnovers. Agitate. Finish off plays in close. Size was obviously a big factor as to why Matt was never drafted, but Ryan has done just fine and I expect an NHL team to use that as motivation to sign Matt. Of course, I wouldn't be surprised if that NHL team was the Toronto Maple Leafs. #brothersreunited

6. Holden Cook - Forward - Owen Sound Attack
The Attack's leading scorer last year, Cook was off to a great start this year before getting injured. He's been out since October with the dreaded "upper body injury." I'm sure that Cook will return at some point this year and when he does, he'll resume his responsibility as Owen Sound's top center. Cook is a well rounded player who has the potential to be successful as a pro because he could excel in a variety of roles (similar to the way his Owen Sound career has gone). 

5. Bryan Moore - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Moore is a hard nosed scoring winger who has really come into his own the last two years. He fits incredibly well in the Greyhounds attacking style of play, as he's got great speed and a scorer's touch around the net. Moore also plays the game hard, battling in the corners and taking the body. His game hasn't been quite as consistent this year, as it was last year, but he remains a solid pro prospect IMO. He's the type of guy who is built for the NHL game today, with speed and tenacity being his best attributes.
  
4. Jean Dupuy - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
The only player on this list who has already signed an NHL contract this year (with Buffalo). Dupuy has been excellent for the Greyhounds this year. While his NHL potential is not significant (we're not talking about a future 30 goal scorer), he could definitely develop into a useful role player. Dupuy has evolved his game from being more than just a "scrapper." He's become a very effective forechecker who's able to create turnovers with his size and tenacity. He's also become a very responsible two-way player who can block shots and battle hard to get pucks out. Needless to say, he knows his role and plays it to a tee. 

3. Marcus McIvor - Defence - North Bay Battalion
For the past three seasons, McIvor has been a workhorse for Stan Butler's stingy Battalion defence. McIvor is a defensive monster. His size, in combination with his skating agility and aggressive nature, make him one of the toughest defenseman to get around in the OHL. Last year, coaches voted him the 3rd best defensive defenseman in the East, and he's almost assured a spot on the coaches poll again this year. Perhaps an underrated component of McIvor's game is his ability to move the puck and evade the forecheck. I think (and have always thought) that he has the characteristics of a solid stay at home defender at the pro level.

2. Joseph Blandisi - Forward - Barrie Colts
I wonder if the Colorado Avalanche regret not signing Blandisi now? After letting him go this past offseason, Blandisi has come back to Barrie as a man on a mission. Currently 5th in league scoring, he's been one of the OHL's most consistent offensive players this year. I think one of the biggest reasons for that has simply been increased confidence. Previously, Blandisi was the type to be content playing second fiddle to more "talented" offensive players on a scoring line. The cliched, "secondary" offensive player. The guy who opened up space, fought along the boards, and went to the net. Well he's continuing to do those things, but he's also taking charge offensively and creating his own chances by showing off skill and creativity with the puck that I didn't know he possessed. I think there's still some question marks as to the type of player he'll be at the next level (and that's why he's 2nd and not 1st on this list), but I definitely think he deserves a second chance with an NHL organization.

1. Brenden Miller - Defence - North Bay Battalion
Brenden Miller has slowly blossomed into one of the OHL's best and most well rounded defenders. Each season his game has improved, and this year has been no exception. Two years ago, his offensive game really exploded as he became the premier power play QB for the Battalion. Last year, it was his defensive game that took a step forward. This year, it's both. He currently finds himself 6th in defenseman scoring, but has also improved his defensive consistency. In particular, he's shown marked improvement at being able to handle forwards in front of the net, as he's increased his intensity level. Based on the progression he's shown over the years and his ability to contribute in multiple ways, Miller is my top overage free agent this year.

Honorable Mentions

Forward

If you had asked me at the beginning of the year, Ottawa's Brendan Bell would have been on this list. The big, physical winger had a terrific offensive season last year, but just hasn't been able to replicate that. He's still an important part of the 67's, but I'm not sure about his pro potential anymore. Guelph's Chris Marchese has had a tough OHL career, battling injuries. No one has ever questioned his skill level though. Plymouth's Mathew Campagna was supposed to be one of the leading scorers in the league this year, but he's had an incredibly disappointing season (like most of the Whalers). He remains a terrific playmaker, but hasn't performed enough to warrant a contract this year. That leaves us with Sudbury's Nathan Pancel, who has been a 20 goal scorer every year he's been in the league. But I'm just not sure I see his offensive talents translating to the NHL level (which is likely the case from NHL teams too, since they chose to remain uninterested in him despite a 42 goal season last year).

Defence

Peterborough captain, Connor Boland is a solid stay at home defender who has the size to play that role at the next level. He's bound to draw some interest similar to the way Kevin Raine did last year. Mississauga's Brandon Devlin is a terrific offensive defender, and his size is alluring, but his defensive game remains a serious drawback. Oshawa's Dakota Mermis has become a very solid OHL defender, but with only average size and an undefined role, he remains an honourable mention.

Goaltender

No goaltender had to be happier to see December come to an end than Niagara's Brandon Hope (Hope gave up 29 goals in 8 December games), but consider that a small blip on the radar. Last year, his first as an OHL starter, Hope was quietly one of the most consistent goaltenders in the league. He continued that strong play into this season and with Niagara following a trade from Owen Sound. If Hope can get the Niagara IceDogs into the playoffs and help them do some damage (this was supposed to be a team fighting for 1st in the East), he could be a hot commodity for pro teams. Sarnia's Taylor Dupuis has been fantastic for them this year, and has been one of the main reasons why the team sits a surprising 2nd in their division. It's his first year really displaying a high level of play, but goaltenders are notorious late bloomers.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Midseason Top 30 for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft

The start of the 2015 calendar year is upon us and that means it is time for me to re-evaluate my rankings for the 2015 Draft. The OHL season is past the half way mark which gives us a great indication of how certain players have developed in their draft season. Many players have stepped up to assume large roles on their club, while others have disappointed and find themselves on the outside looking in.

It's another great year for top end talent in the OHL. We've got 5-6 guys vying for spots in the Top 10, and another handful who look like potential first round picks. Depth wise, however, I don't think it's a tremendous year for the 'O.' There is some solid talent available for the top 90, but I don't see as many mid/later round picks coming from the OHL as there have been recently. Usually, I could make an argument for upwards of 50 players having draft potential. And as such, I find it difficult to limit my list (to 50). This year, I have a hard time hitting the 40 mark, let alone 50. There's still tons of time for players to find their game (or work to increase their ice time), so it will be interesting to see how the bottom part of this list compares to the final one at the end of the year.

A couple things to note before I start the list. Firstly, I've started doing a Top 50 (with 20 HM's) for each this year. Makes for a more compelling read (and reflection at season's end). Secondly, for those unfamiliar with the blog, I don't include second and third year eligibles (re-entries) in my list (like Matt Schmalz, Ken Appleby, or Damir Sharipzyanov).

Here's the list:

1. Connor McDavid - Forward - Erie Otters
What more is there to say at this point? For as good as he is, his game continues to evolve. Everyone knows about his offensive talents (elite speed and vision), but his overall game has really improved too. He makes a concerted effort to break up plays on the back check and he's been way more involved without the puck, especially in the corners. Previously, he's been a guy who forces turnovers in open ice, using his "sense" to intercept passes or strip players of the puck. But he's now very involved on the forecheck and is winning more battles along the boards. His continued improvement as a player is a testament to his work ethic and elite status as a prospect.

2. Mitch Marner - Forward - London Knights
Really rising in my eyes. His play with London has been absolutely exceptional the last few months. Such a high energy player who can affect the game in a variety of ways. In puck pursuit, he's quite relentless and he forces a lot of turnovers on the forecheck. But he's got the vision and hockey sense to find teammates, while playing at a high tempo. He makes such quick decisions and rarely turns the puck over in the offensive end. His skill level is also incredibly high and I think he's the perfect type of player for today's run and gun NHL. With his tenacity, and as he continues to add strength, I don't see his average size being an issue.

3. Dylan Strome - Forward - Erie Otters
Leapfrogged by Marner because of how good Marner has been, not because he's played poorly. If anything, Strome has proven the last few weeks just how good of a prospect he is (without Connor McDavid in Erie). Strome is the prototypical 2015 NHL centerman. Big, strong, and skilled. He's still learning how to use his size to slow down play and dictate pace, but when he masters this art, his skill level with the puck could make him a puck possession beast. Much like his brother Ryan, Dylan also possesses a terrific shot, which he's gaining more and more confidence using. He's not a power forward, and he'll never be a speedster, but his skill set is still rare and incredibly appealing to NHL scouts.

4. Pavel Zacha - Forward - Sarnia Sting
Zacha is such an interesting prospect. Every time I've seen Sarnia this year, he's been one of the better players on the ice. With his size, speed, and desire to involve himself physically, he impacts the game in so many different ways. Zacha is definitely most dangerous off the rush, where his speed and ability to use his size to protect the puck, makes him difficult to contain. As I've mentioned before, I had no idea just how physical of a player he'd be too. He plays the game very hard (see his suspension). That said, his game is less effective when things slow down in the offensive end. He needs to channel his size to be more effective in creating from the cycle. In a lot of ways, this makes me wonder about his high end playmaking potential. BUT, he's a very impressive prospect with a lot going for him.

5. Lawson Crouse - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Those who follow the draft, but don't watch the OHL always seem to have the same reaction to Crouse; "how is he rated so high?" Easy question to answer. In fact, it's the same answer as to why he made the Canadian WJC team (over the likes of Marner and Strome). Crouse is a coach's dream. He does almost everything well on the ice. He could probably step on to an NHL 4th line right now and not look out of place. His two-way game is incredibly polished and he makes so many plays (whether it be a good pass, a forced turnover, a check to separate his man from the puck) that don't make it on the score sheet. Crouse also happens to be a very big kid who plays big and has no fear of throwing his weight around. The offensive skill set is definitely still developing. His confidence in using his shot and driving the net is still evolving. He certainly doesn't have the offensive potential of a guy like Strome. But, he's about as sure a bet to play in the NHL as you'll find in this draft.

6. Travis Konecny - Forward - Ottawa 67's
The top 6 of this OHL group is very tight right now. This is definitely thanks to the improved play of Konency the last month or so. After starting the season off slowly, Konecny is back up around the point per game mark. Like Crouse, Konecny's game is a lot more than what you see on the score sheet. As captain of the 67's, his leadership qualities won't go unnoticed by NHL scouts. And he's already a solid two-way forward who competes hard without the puck. Konecny's speed is his best asset, as he's able to transition quickly. He's also not afraid of using his shot off the rush. Really, the only knock against Konecny is his size. At 5'10, will he be able to play the game as hard as he does and remain durable in the NHL?

7. Nikita Korostelev - Forward - Sarnia Sting
Korostelev is a super skilled winger with a lot of potential at the pro level. There are a lot of levels to his game, but the pieces aren't consistently together yet. At times he can be prone to turnovers from doing too much. His physical game and play without the puck has not looked as strong this year as it did last year (perhaps concentrating too much on trying to hit the score sheet?). And his speed and first few steps are only average. But, his skill level with the puck and ability to create time and space for himself is elite. If he were to improve his speed, he could be scary good. He's got a terrific shot and massive goal scoring potential at the next level. He'll need to continue to improve his consistency to secure a spot in the first round this year.

8. Matt Spencer - Defence - Peterborough Petes
It's getting damn close, but Spencer is still the top defender available IMO. Defensively, he's already a very steady player who projects to be an even better defender at the next level because of his size and mobility. He's still learning how to use his size consistently, but he breaks up a lot of passes and is very difficult to get through. An underrated component to his game is his ability to transition from defence to offence. Spencer makes a great first pass and is very calm, and cool while avoiding the forecheck. He doesn't yet have the confidence in his offensive abilities to consistently jump up in the rush, but he's very steady. Spencer will be a high NHL pick because he's still scratching the surface as to how much he could impact the game at both ends.

9. Mitchell Vande Sompel - Defence - Oshawa Generals
Has impressed me so much this year. His defensive game has improved a ton from last year. Vande Sompel's defensive positioning is outstanding and it helps to alleviate the concerns his lack of size may generate. Because he's constantly moving his feet and anticipates the play so well, he's not putting himself in many positions where he's susceptible of being out muscled. And when he's able to make a good play defensively, he uses his great speed to get the puck up ice quickly. Whether it be in transition, or on the power play, Vande Sompel's head for the game in the offensive end is on display. I'm not usually a fan of rating undersized defenseman highly, but Vande Sompel has definitely won me over.

10. Graham Knott - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
Knott is a terrific two-way forward who, like Lawson Crouse, impacts the game in a lot of ways that don't end up on the score sheet. He's Niagara's top penalty killer and he uses his size exceptionally well to separate aggressors from the puck. He also is very effective on the forecheck and along the wall. Offensvely, his speed isn't terrific, but he has very underrated hands and he's able to make the skilled plays in close. As he gets stronger, I think he develops into a very good goal scorer. Size, aggression, and developing skill make Knott the type of player NHL scouts like more than the average fan.

11. Travis Dermott - Defence - Erie Otters
Criminally underrated. Dermott is as solid as it gets. His defensive game is terrific. He has great positioning and competes very hard in his own end, whether it's to tie up a forward in front of the net, or winning a battle in the corners. Dermott also makes a terrific first pass and rarely turns the puck over, exhibiting patience and poise in his own end. He skates well and is mobile, which helps him to jump up in the rush when it's necessary. As a power play QB, he's starting to gain some confidence and I think he'll eventually end up as a big point producer from the back end. Does he have a ton of NHL potential? He's not going to be a first pairing/NHL all star. But because of his well rounded game, he could definitely carve out a long career.

12. Blake Speers - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Speers has been terrific all year for the Hounds, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been getting better and better as the weeks have gone on. Speers possesses terrific speed, but he's starting to look to use that speed to create more in the middle of the ice and is being kept less and less to the perimeter. His rushes and ability to work in transition help to open up space for his line mates and he has the hockey sense to find them. His goal scoring ability is the other highlight of his skill set, as he does a great job of finding open space and rarely hesitates to put the puck on net. His size will be a drawback in terms of NHL draft ranking, but as long as he continues to attack the net, he'll slowly gain respect.

13. Mackenzie Blackwood - Goaltender - Barrie Colts
Finally healthy and confident again, Blackwood is shaking off a slow start and playing some exceptional hockey of late. He's got 10 wins in the month of December and has raised his save percentage over 20 points. Big, and athletic, Blackwood does an exceptional job of taking away the bottom of the net in the butterfly. He moves well post to post and is conscious of staying big in his net and challenging shooters. If he continues to play this well, he could easily be the first North American goaltender off the board this June.

14. Thomas Schemitsch - Defence - Owen Sound Attack
Schemitsch has been consistently excellent this year for Owen Sound at both ends of the ice. Defensively, he's a cog on the Attack's penalty killing unit and he uses his size well to defend the crease and win battles along the boards. Offensively, he has a great understanding of how to get the puck through to the net from the point and he's really developing as a power play QB. Considering all the things he does well, and the fact that he possesses great size, I don't really understand his lack of love and hype for this draft thus far.

15. Justin Lemcke - Defence - Belleville Bulls
I really like Lemcke and I think he definitely deserves to be in the same conversation at the Spencer's, Dermott's, etc for top OHL defender available. He's not putting up a ton of points because he sees limited power play time behind Jordan Subban, but he's a very reliable two-way defender who is only scratching the surface of his potential. For a big kid (6'2, 200lbs), Lemcke skates very well and moves around effortlessly on the big ice in Belleville. He's also really learning to play more aggressively and it's made him a more effective defensive player. He's the type of guy who has the potential to really surprise people and be the type of guy scouts debate about how they missed him.

16. Rasmus Andersson - Defence - Barrie Colts
Andersson continues to perform for the Colts, operating at around the point per game mark (4th among OHL defenders with 33 points). So what's putting him 6th among defenders on my list (admittedly all very close to each other, along with Dunn)? I see Andersson as having a similar skill set to all those listed above him, which is great. But he's also the worst skater of the group and I think that makes him a bit less likely to to develop into an NHL player compared to the others. I do like his ability to run the point on the power play, and he is definitely a very feisty defender. I think it's just a matter of personal preference here (and how much emphasis you put on mobility).

17. Vince Dunn - Defence - Niagara IceDogs
Interestingly enough, Dunn is one of 3 OHL defenders participating in the CHL Top Prospect's Game (over the likes of Dermott and others I have ahead of him). He clearly has his fans. And don't get me wrong, I think he's a solid pro prospect…otherwise I wouldn't have him inside my Top 20. He skates well. He is a creative puck distributor who also has potential to improve his defensive game. That said, I've got him 7th (among OHL defenders) because I've seen him make some very questionable decisions with the puck and in his pinches. In terms of being a complete player, I see him being behind the others I've listed and there's still some rawness to his game. However, I will say that he is one of the few players who shouldn't be criticized for Niagara's extremely skittish start to the year.

18. Brett McKenzie - Forward - North Bay Battalion
McKenzie has been quiet offensively so far this season, but that has a lot to do with the fact that he's not seeing tremendous amounts of ice time in offensive situations. McKenzie centres North Bay's 3rd line, whose job is to grind down the oppositions best. For those that saw him play in midget, we know that there is significant offensive potential in there though. Stan Butler typically eases his young players into high pressure offensive situations after they exhibit an understanding of how to play at both ends. With terrific center depth, the Battalion have been patient with McKenzie. However, he's slowly starting to produce more offensively (has had a good month of December) and could be a massive riser if the offensive output increases in the second half (cough, Nick Paul, Brent Burns, etc).

19. Kyle Capobianco - Defence - Sudbury Wolves
You have to feel for Capobianco. He's one of the few reasons to watch the Wolves this year, yet I wonder how many people are. Sudbury is just horrific (and they'll probably be worse after they move some pieces after the deadline). They've given up nearly double the amount of goals than they've scored. However, Capobianco is in the midst of a breakout season. He's third on his team in points, and he's actually (somewhat remarkably) been a plus player the last two months. He's developed into a quality two way defender who can lead or join the rush with a solid skating stride. He's also a solid positional defender who's improving his confidence in playing with an edge. Admittedly, maybe he deserves to be in consideration with some of the other guys I've listed above him. But I've only seen Sudbury a couple of times this year (see my opening sentence for this paragraph).

20. Zachary Senyshen - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Senyshen is really growing on me the more I watch him play. You have to appreciate a big winger who can drive the net the way he does. He is aggressive in attacking the net and is a great skater for a big guy. He also creates a lot of room on the ice for the other players on his line, as he draws defences in. As he gets stronger, and improves his shot (more so his confidence), he could be a big time scorer in this league. I said on twitter recently that his game reminds me of Josh Leivo's and I see his progression following a similar path.

21. Michael McNiven - Goaltender - Owen Sound Attack
He has only let in more than two goals in a game once this year (his most recent start against Barre), and if he qualified, his save percentage would be almost 20 points higher than the best in the league (.944). I think Blackwood's size advantage gives him the nod over McNiven, but he's making it a damn close race. McNiven squares up to shooters so well and he's got a heck of a glove hand. He gives up a decent amount of rebounds, but he's quite athletic and quick and is terrific at recovering. If he keeps this up, the OHL could have the top two net minders available in North America.

22. Mitchell Stephens - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
It's still early, but I expected more from Stephens this year. He performed so well at the Ivan Hlinka and I expected that to carry over to the OHL this year. But, that hasn't necessarily been the case. Yes, he does have 13 goals. But 10 of those have come in 4 games. The consistency just hasn't been there. A few times I've seen Saginaw this year, Stephens has been completely invisible. And with him being undersized, that can't be a knock against him. His speed, ability to create in transition and overall skill level are too high for him to not be a consistent offensive threat. Hopefully he's able to have a better (at least more consistent) second half.

23. Gustaf Franzen - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
Franzen is really starting to come into his own with Kitchener. He's definitely a hard worker and I've been impressed with his ability to control the boards despite being relatively undersized (5'10). He's got a great/strong center of gravity and he's very strong on the puck. We're starting to see him shoot the puck more, especially on the power play, where he's setting up shop at the dot for the one timer. I'm not sure how much potential he has at the NHL level, and his acceleration and top gear do need some work, but I like the growth he's shown so far this year.

24. Gustaf Bouramman - Defence - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Back to back Gustafs! Bouramman has been a pleasant surprise for the Hounds this year, helping to run their power play. I really like his composure on the backend. He makes smart decisions with the puck in his own end, whether it's a good first pass or a rush up ice. And while he's not going to be confused with Adam Foote any time soon, I've actually been impressed with his defensive awareness and that he's not backing down in the defensive end (criticisms that I had read about prior to his OHL debut).

25. Colton White - Defence - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
White is more than what his numbers suggest. I see an incredibly raw product who has massive potential. He's an absolutely terrific skater and as he gains confidence in his ability to rush the puck, I see that becoming a big part of his game. It's a numbers game and the Hounds have an exceptionally deep defence. Eventually, he's going to be counted on to play a larger role and that's when we'll see his game grow. But with size and mobility, this young defender could be a real diamond in the rough.

26. Dante Salituro - Forward - Ottawa 67's
While Konecny was struggling at the beginning of the year, it was Salituro who kept the 67's afloat. He had 12 goals in October. And while he hasn't exactly maintained that pace, he hasn't been a slouch either. His 23 goals put him 7th in the OHL currently. If he were bigger, there's no question that Salituro would be higher on this list. He plays a lot bigger than his 5'8 frame and is fearless in attacking the net and playing without the puck. But, I do have questions as to how his game would translate to the pro level. Will he be as effective near the crease as he is in the OHL? I take a chance in the mid rounds to find out, even if there aren't many 5'8 forwards getting drafted these days.

27. Sam Harding - Forward - Oshawa Generals
Harding is a solid two-way center who's starting to find confidence in his offensive game. While he's not exactly a physical player, he does battle hard in the corners, in front of the net and on the back check. I wish he were a bit bigger for the type of game he plays (I think he's best suited as a puck possession guy in the offensive end), but I like his hockey sense and dedication to both ends of the ice. Even after the Generals load up at the deadline, I expect his offensive totals to continue to increase.

28. Matt Luff - Forward - Belleville Bulls
I think Luff is a very interesting prospect. Really big kid who is still figuring out what type of player he wants to become. He seems to be most effective near the crease, where he can use his size to gain scoring position. His skating is only adequate, so that will need to improve. And I'd like to see him become more aggressive and noticeable without the puck. But he has offensive skill and he has size, two things that will make him attractive to NHL teams. I'm intrigued to see how his game evolves in the second half (it's only his first season in the OHL and he doesn't have a ton of experience above the midget level).

29. Marcus Crawford - Defence - Saginaw Spirit
Has missed some time due to injury, but Crawford has had an excellent first season in the OHL. He has really helped to elevate the quality of Saginaw's power play, as he moves the puck quickly at the point and has good vision and poise. I've actually been impressed with his play in his own end too. He defends well off the rush and has good positioning and mobility. Adding strength to be more effective in traffic areas is a must, but that will come. Hopefully he can stay healthy in the second half and find a groove.

30. David Miller - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
I'm definitely a fan, but if 5'9 guys with late birthdays ('96) aren't producing offensively, they won't be ranked highly for the draft. He's losing some playing time to the Hounds younger players and he's got to step up his game. Playing with lesser talented players, it's up to Miller to elevate their game. Miller has so much speed to burn, he needs to use it more effectively to create offence at a consistent rate, whether its from driving to the net, or creating turnovers on the forecheck. The Hounds will definitely be loading up at the deadline (IMO) and I think Miller could really explode again in the second half after he gets some better wingers.

Honorable Mention

31. Hayden McCool - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
32. Jeremiah Addison - Forward - Ottawa 67's
33. Roy Radke - Forward - Barrie Colts
34. Jesse Barwell - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
35. Trent Fox - Forward - Erie Otters
36. Tyler MacArthur - Defence - Owen Sound Attack
37. Artem Artemov - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
38. Adam Laishram - Forward - Belleville Bulls
39. Ethan Szypula - Forward - Owen Sound Attack
40. Jesse Saban - Defence - Erie Otters
41. Anthony Cirelli - Forward - Oshawa Generals
42. Garrett McFadden - Defence - Guelph Storm
43. Noah Bushnell - Forward - Sarnia Sting
44. Johnny Corniel - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
45. Adam Craievich - Forward - Guelph Storm
46. Tyler Boston - Forward - Guelph Storm
47. Medric Mercier - Defence - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
48. Chris Martenet - Defence - London Knights
49. Michael Holmes - Defence - Saginaw Spirit
50. Petrus Palmu - Forward - Owen Sound Attack

Saturday, December 20, 2014

2015 OHL Trade Deadline Preview

As the calendar year approaches its conclusion, that can only mean one thing. The OHL Trade Deadline has almost arrived. This year, overage players must be dealt by January 8, while the deadline for all other players is January 9.

I have a feeling that this will be quite the active deadline based on how close some of the playoff races are, and because several teams seem to be in full fledged rebuild mode.

I present to you a look at some of the high profile players who could be (and likely will be) trading places before the 8th/9th. I've also tried my hand at predicting the most logical destination for said player.

Joel Wigle - Erie Otters
Tough start to the year for Wigle. It looked like he was going to be a big part of the Otters this season, perhaps even playing with McDavid. But then he broke his hand and some of the other OA's on the team cemented themselves in the lineup. He then left the team in early December in hopes of being dealt, but that hasn't happened yet. As a big winger with scoring ability, Wigle will find a home somewhere. There are several teams (in playoff contention) currently without a 3rd OA, all of whom could use some additional help up front. Those teams are London, Oshawa, Ottawa, Owen Sound, Sault Set. Marie (and Mississauga because I think Venuto is expendable). Of those, I think Oshawa, Sault Ste. Marie, and Mississauga make the most sense, because they could use a right handed shot in their top 9.
Prediction: Wigle goes to Oshawa for a early to mid round draft pick (3-4 range)

Jake Paterson - Saginaw Spirit
A few months ago, it looked like a Paterson deal was imminent. But after the departure of Serebryakov,  the rumours dried up. That said, the Spirit are in full rebuild mode. There are competitive teams out there who need help in net. It doesn't make sense to hang on to Paterson, when the return could be relatively strong for the overager. Any trade involving Paterson, could have a relatively experienced goalie coming back the other way to ensure the team is still given a chance to win (and David Ovsjannikov gets a mentor). Of the teams with OA wiggle room, only Ottawa and London have a need for a goalie. Of course, another team could make room, but I don't see it. And I don't think Ottawa goes all in. Therefore, I see London as the only logical choice for Paterson. They were clearly holding an OA spot open in hopes that Ryan Rupert returned, but he's been playing terrific in the AHL since his promotion from the ECHL, so that's not going to happen. And they've also been surprisingly good this year (since Domi returned), so why not go all in and try to challenge Erie for the division?
Prediction: Paterson goes to London for Michael Giugovaz, Josh DeFarias, and a early draft pick (2nd/3rd)

Jake Marchment - Belleville Bulls
Certainly not a shoe in to be dealt, especially since he plays for a playoff team and is finally playing well after returning from suspension. But, I just have a gut feeling that the former Bulls captain has warn out his welcome after the whole social media ordeal earlier this season. The Bulls have some holes on defence and I think they use Marchment to solidify that position. Marchment should garner a fair amount of interest, as he's a big guy with offensive ability. He's also a strong OA candidate despite being recently drafted (by LA). There are quite a few teams who I think match up quite well for this type of trade, such as Niagara and Windsor. Windsor has been focused on adding size up front and he would fit in very well with their current lineup.
Prediction: Marchment goes to Windsor for Trevor Murphy

Trevor Murphy - Windsor Spitfires
The Spits are deadliest in the West right now and I think that they'd be smart to sell off a few more high end assets to help the team in the future. The offensively talented Murphy is one of those players. The '95 defender is a strong OA candidate for next year, but I see Windsor looking at deals for him instead. I think Kingston, Belleville, and Sarnia make a ton of sense for Murphy. Kingston especially, is a great candidate based on how bad their power play has been this year. That said, Belleville is also a great fit based on Murphy's skating ability on the big ice. He could pair with Justin Lemcke on the 2nd pairing and take some pressure off the youngster offensively.
Prediction: Murphy goes to Belleville for Jake Marchment

Nick Ritchie - Peterborough Petes
He can't be dealt until January 5th, because he's playing in the WJC's. However, Ritchie is probably the most high profiled player rumoured to be available. The Petes have been incredibly underwhelming this year. Their inconsistent play stems from the wavering effort level of their leadership group. Ritchie has always had all the skill and potential, but just hasn't taken his game to the next level and put the Petes on his back as many expected he would this year. I think the time is now for Peterborough to change the face of their team and shake things up. The return for Ritchie would be quite strong, and likely feature several quality young players, and/or draft picks. So who are the likely suitors? I think a better question is…who isn't a likely suitor for Ritchie? Who couldn't use an injection of size and skill into their top 6? But…I'll be bold and tell you the 3 teams I expect to be chasing Ritchie the most. Those are Erie (going all in for final year of McDavid), Sault Ste. Marie (would fit in well with the north/south speed game the team likes to play), and a surprise pick, North Bay (no coach would be better for Ritchie's game than Stan Butler). That said, will Erie part with Taylor Raddysh, as the Petes will surely be looking for a former first rounder in return for Ritchie?
Prediction: Ritchie goes to Erie for Kyle Pettit, Jesse Saban, and a boatload of draft picks

Nick Moutrey - Saginaw Spirit
Will the Spirit really deal their newly appointed captain? I think so. As previously mentioned, the team is in full rebuild mode. Moutrey has been absolutely sensational this year, and I think he's actually a better add than Ritchie because of his ability to excel in a variety of roles (and his leadership). With a Moutrey deal, the team could usher in a new era and name one of their top young players as captain (like Stephens). So which team is the best fit? Again, which team isn't? Any contender should be interested in Moutrey. Like Ritchie, I'll give you 3. Again, Erie's in there because I think they go all in. And so is Sault Ste. Marie for the same reason. The wild card I'll throw out is Belleville. I think Moutrey could be a great fit on the big ice and would be a beast with Remi Elie (the same way North Bay won the East last year).
Prediction: Moutrey goes to the Soo in exchange for Anthony Salinitri and draft picks

Nathan Pancel - Sudbury Wolves
At this point, the Wolves would be silly to hang on to Pancel. The team is awful and he deserves to end his OHL career as a potential winner. His goal scoring ability would be a terrific add to any team looking to make noise in the playoffs. Of course, as an overager, there aren't too many potential suitors. You're looking at London, Oshawa, Ottawa, Owen Sound, Sault Ste. Marie, and possibly Mississauga. Of those, I think Ottawa, Owen Sound, and Mississauga are the most likely. Of course, as an Ottawa native (at least Orleans anyway), Pancel to the 67's would make a ton of sense.
Prediction: Pancel goes to Ottawa for a early draft pick (2nd/3rd)

Jeff Corbett - Sudbury Wolves
The other overager available from Sudbury, Corbett could be a low profile add for a team with OA room, looking to improve their defence. He's had some injury problems over the course of his OHL career, but he's a better defender than people think. He's solid at both ends of the ice and I think he'd really elevate his game if given the chance to play for a winner. I think he's a perfect fit in Mississauga, where he could give the team another quality defender, in a lineup with a lot of offensively oriented guys.
Prediction: Corbett goes to Mississauga for Lucas Venuto and a mid round draft pick (4th/5th)

Michael Clarke - Peterborough Petes
As mentioned, things have not gone as planned in Peterborough this year. Clarke, a former NHL draft pick, just hasn't been good enough. He's strayed away from the physical, in your face, style of play that he used employ in Windsor. I've listed the potential OA suitors in other parts of this article. And as much as the Petes would love to trade Clarke, I'm just not sure that there will be any takers. If London doesn't take a run at Jake Paterson, I could see them being interested in Clarke to give them more depth down the middle.
Prediction: Clarke stays in Peterborough

Josh MacDonald - Peterborough Petes
Of Peterborough's OA's, I think MacDonald is actually the most likely to be moved. The return won't be outstanding, but he can be a valuable role player for a good team. He could play 2nd or 3rd line wing and help a team's second power play unit. He's not the most physical player in the world, but the offensive production is there. Of the OA suitors, I see Owen Sound, Ottawa, and Mississauga being the most interested. Sault Ste. Marie has an OA spot, but I think MacDonald is a similar player to some of the guys the Hounds already have in the lineup and would be relatively redundant for them.
Prediction: MacDonald goes to Owen Sound in exchange for a mid round draft pick (4th/5th round)

Greg Betzold - Peterborough Petes
The big winger's offensive game has finally blossomed this year, but it's not really being talked about much. Instead, Betzold's suspension for social media abuse (and the Petes poor play) is overshadowing that. I think Peterborough looks to deal him at the deadline, even if he's a great OA candidate next year (Betzold is the type of player who usually explodes offensively in his OA year). With his size, he's likely to generate interest from a team looking to add punch to it's top 6 (or 9). I look at team's like North Bay, Barrie, Erie, and the Soo as potential suitors. In particular, I think Betzold could really excel under coach Stan Butler. His power game would fit very nicely into the Battalion line up.
Prediction: Betzold goes to North Bay for Riley Bruce and a early/mid round draft pick (3rd/4th)

Matt Mistele - Plymouth Whalers
The Whalers have not just been the most disappointing team in the OHL this season, I think they've been the most underachieving team in recent memory. Tons of talent. A great goaltender. Yet…they sit outside, looking in, in the Western Conference playoff picture. Because of that, there has been some suggestion that the team could look to move someone like Matt Mistele. Mistele has been one of the few Plymouth players who hasn't under performed this year, so he'd likely have a fair amount of value. A team like Sault Ste. Marie or London would probably love to add him to their line up. That said, I think he stays put. In fact, I think Plymouth makes a few minor moves to get better. If Nedeljkovic can step up and the team gets healthy (and stays off the suspension list), the Whalers could breakout at any moment. I tell you, If I'm a 1-3 seed in the West, I wouldn't want to play Plymouth in the first round (just like if I were in the East, I wouldn't want to play Niagara).
Prediction: Mistele stays in Plymouth

Ryan Kujawinski - Kingston Frontenacs
Every year, there's an OHL trade deadline move that leaves a few people shaking their hands. Quite often, a player is moved that people don't anticipate. This year, my pick for that player is Kujawinski. Kingston is a decent team, but they aren't likely to make much noise in the playoffs (don't have the depth). When Sam Bennett went out for the year, it really ruined the chances of Kingston to be a big player in the East. The team still has a decent core of 96's and 97's who could make the team quite strong again next year. Kujawinski has never really developed into the player Kingston thought he would become when they acquired him (for Ryan Spooner). But he's still having a decent year and should have a fair amount of value (because I expect him to be back in the OHL again next year). He could be a great pick up for a contending team looking to add offensively (I look at London, Guelph and Niagara especially).
Prediction: Kujawinski goes to Niagara for Zach Wilkie and draft picks



Of course, there are likely to be other players dealt that are not listed here by me. And, as mentioned, there are usually a few surprising moves (Imgaine if Plymouth moved Sonny Milano to London?). Would love to hear your predictions in the comments section.













Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sunday Top 10 - Under the Radar Draft Eligibles for 2015


We're inching ever closer to the Christmas break and the halfway point to the 2014/2015 season. You've seen draft lists from pretty much every major scouting organization (CSS, ISS, McKeen's, FC, Craig Button at TSN, etc). In about a month's time, NHL Central Scouting will release it's midterm list; their first which amalgamates all leagues in North America. In my opinion, it's a perfect time to highlight some guys who are flying under the radar right now. Guys we're not hearing much about, but who are slowly turning themselves into NHL (some considerable) prospects.

This list is in no particular order of ranking; as I've used alphabetical order. An argument could certainly be made about the criteria used to separate the "under the radar" players. No question it was quite subjective. But I didn't include a guy like Blake Speers based on how much "hype" he's been receiving from the media as of late (deserving of it too).

Jeremiah Addison - Ottawa 67's
The former first rounder of the Spirit is getting a second chance with the 67's and is finally starting to look confident and comfortable. After starting the year very slowly, he's now averaging a point per game over his last 14 games (8 goals, 6 assists). The hard nosed winger is a very versatile player who's skill set allows him to excel in a variety of roles. Lately, he's shown a lot of chemistry playing with Dante Salituro, opening up scoring lanes and finishing off plays near the crease. If he continues to play at this level, he could elevate himself into the top 100.

Anthony Cirelli - Oshawa Generals
Cirelli was a free agent signing by the Generals this offseason and he's proving to be quite the find. He's lined up both down the middle and on the wing this year and is currently doing whatever Oshawa's coaching staff is asking of him. Right now that includes playing with Michael Dal Colle and Josh Sterk on the Generals' top line. Cirelli isn't the biggest, but he's proving to be very capable of working the corners and digging hard in front of the net. There's no doubt that Cirelli's skill and tenacity has caught the attention of NHL scouts.

Johnny Corneil - Niagara IceDogs
With Brendan Perlini out to start the season, Corneil was the recipient of increased ice time. While the points weren't consistently there, the effort always was. At only 5'10, Corneil plays much larger than that. He's very effective in puck pursuit, and had worked very well with Graham Knott to establish a strong Niagara forecheck. I think it still remains to be seen how much skill he has. And with Perlini back, it's unknown how much ice time he'll get. But Corneil's hard working style of play makes him a noticeable presence on the ice.

Adam Craievich - Guelph Storm
I really felt like Craievich was a big time breakout candidate this season, but that has not be the case as of yet. His skating is still in need of improvement and he's still not getting a ton of ice time, but the talent level he possesses is evident. He's starting be much more noticeable, shift in/shift out, and has been creating offence from the 3rd/4th line as of late. If Guelph were to suffer an injury to their top 6, he could be the leading candidate to fill that role. Maybe during the WJC's (when the Storm will likely be missing Fabbri, Suter, and perhaps Dickinson), he'll get his chance.

Travis Dermott - Erie Otters
Just not getting the respect he deserves (in terms of draft rankings). Guys like Mitchell Vande Sompel, Rasmus Andersson, Matt Spencer, and even Thomas Schemitsch have garnered a lot of attention to start the year, and (IMO) Dermott is right there with them in contention for being the top rated OHL defenseman for this year's draft. The stocky rearguard is a real jack of all trades guy who excels in a variety of roles for Erie. He moves the puck well, but is also a staunch defender of his own end. The "not so sexy" selections like Dermott always attract more attention from NHL scouts than they do the armchair ones.

Matt Luff - Belleville Bulls
Luff has been up and down this year, but that can be expected of someone playing in their first OHL season. When looking at the big picture, Luff possesses a lot of qualities that will be deemed attractive to NHL scouts. He's a big kid and he uses his size well to protect the puck. He has a desire to play near the crease and he shows very good hands in close. His skating is something that will need to be worked on, but the size and hands combo is very intriguing. A "project" pick who could elevate his draft status with a more consistent second half.

Hayden McCool - Windsor Spitfires
His development appeared to have stalled in Niagara, but the trade to Windsor (in the Ho-Sang deal) has really done wonders for his game. He's getting consistent power play time now and has gelled well with fellow youngster Logan Brown. At 6'3, McCool is most effective when he's playing physical and going hard to the net, which he's done so far in Windsor. If McCool can continue to produce offensively (7 points in 9 games) and showcase his power game, he's got a chance to really rocket up the draft charts.

Brett McKenzie - North Bay Battalion
McKenzie's value to the Battalion goes further than a contribution offensively. With his size and skating ability, McKenzie has turned into one of Stan Butler's go to defensive players and has found success centring North Bay's energy/checking/shut down line. But, as someone who saw McKenzie play for Oakville in midget, I can tell you that he's got the skill level and potential to be a big time offensive contributor. North Bay (and Brampton) under Butler, has had a lot of draft eligible guys breakout big time in the second half of the year (I think of Brent Burns and Nick Paul). McKenzie could be the next.

Michael McNiven - Owen Sound Attack
"All I do is win, win, win, no matter what." McNiven's strong play forced the the Attack to deal Brandon Hope to Niagara, and since then he's begun to earn more and more starting assignments. In 8 starts this year, McNiven has yet to post a save percentage under .913, and has yet to let in more than 2 goals in a game. Pretty impressive stuff. With great size and athleticism in the crease, it wouldn't shock me at all if by the end of the year, McNiven passes Mackenzie Blackwood as the top OHL goaltender available.

Colton White - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Everyone knew that the Greyhounds would be one of the league's top teams this year. But one of the biggest surprises on the team has been the play of their "3rd pairing" (I say this because it's not really a 3rd pairing) of Colton White and Gustav Bouramman. White is a super athletic defender who's only scratching the surface of what he's capable of. A terrific skater, White is only now gaining the confidence to push things offensively. He's also one of Sault Ste. Marie's most relied upon penalty killers. With Darnell Nurse gone at the WJC's, he's going to get an even larger role. He's poised for big things in the second half.






Sunday, November 23, 2014

Preliminary Media/Scout Top 10 for 2015

It's time for the first media/scout top 10 for 2015. While top of the list seems pretty cut and dry at this point in time, the bottom definitely is not. Twenty different players received consideration (votes) for the Top 10.

For those unfamiliar with how this works, I poll many of the OHL's brightest minds; those who cover the league incredibly well and know their stuff. These contributors supply me with their top 10 available players from the OHL, in addition to some comments. I then put it all together and provide you with a cumulative list. Call it "the consensus."

As always, this list involves contributions from a rather colourful cast of characters. Contributing their rankings and thoughts to this preliminary list for 2015 were:

Corey Pronman - ESPN writer (@coreypronman)
Dominic Tiano - Writer for The OHL Writers (@dominictiano)
Nathan Fournier - Writer for Maine Hockey Journal/Contributor to The Hockey News (@jrhockeywriter)
Dan Stewart - Director of Scouting for Future Considerations (@StewartFC)
Brendan Ross - Co-Manager of DobberProspects, scout for McKeens Hockey & TheScout.ca (@RossyYoungblood)
Peter Kneulman - Writer for the OHL Writers and In the O Radio (@PeterKneulman)
Carl Maloney - OHL correspondent for TheHockeyWriters (@carlTHW)
Brandon Sudeyko - Host/Producer of the In the O Radio Show (@intheoradio)
Matt Grainda - Scout for ISS Hockey (@graindaiv)
Tony Ambrogio - PA Announcer for the Mississauga Steelheads & TSN editor/producer (@Tony_Ambrogio)
Mike Morreale - Staff writer for NHL.com (@mikemorrealeNHL)
Anthony Mauro - Director/Founder of Draft Buzz Hockey (@draftbuzzhockey)
Manny Paiva - Play by Play voice of the Owen Sound Attack (@paivatheway)
Stephen Clark - Play by Play Announcer for the Niagara IceDogs (@SteveClarkMedia)
Ryan Kennedy - Associate senior writer for The Hockey News (@THNRyanKennedy)

and of course...myself (@BrockOtten)

Here's the Top 10 with several honorable mentions:

10. Graham Knott - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
Total Votes: 6
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 9th (2x)/Outside of the Top 10 (10x)
Comments:
"When I first watched him he really didn't stand out. But the last few times, he has as he gets more comfortable in his draft year. Best way to describe him is this way: A solid all-around player. There is nothing flashy just consistency. " - Ambrogio

"Uses size effectively, high energy player who does the little things well." - Maloney

"Playing with Josh Ho-Sang will only improve his stock. Showed great chemestry wtih him during his Ice Dogs Debut. Has size to create space and capitilize on scoring chances in close and in tight spaces. What he lacks in foot speed he makes up for him smarts and ability to read the play which gives him a step on his opponents." - Kneulman

"Fairly consistent on a team that has not been that.   Two way player, whose totals should increase with acquisition of Josh Ho Sang, size is enticing." - Clark

"One of those guys you just know is going to make a good pro. He uses his size very well, especially on the forecheck and the backcheck. He's already a very good two way player and penalty killer. As he continues to make improvements to his skating, the offensive game will improve too, as the hands and instincts are there." - Otten

"A clever forward who can back off defenders by shifting speeds with the puck. Has a pretty good shot, too." - Kennedy

9. Mitchell Vande Sompel - Defense - Oshawa Generals
Total Votes: 9
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 5th (1x)/Outside of the Top 10 (7x)
The Scoop:
"Ranking defensemen at the top of the lists is going to be somewhat of a challenge this year. It seems to change daily. Vande Sompel has exceeded expectations so far. He leads all OHL defenders in scoring, but most surprisingly, his defensive game is two steps ahead of a year ago. He’s an excellent skater with excellent speed and can transition the puck with an excellent first pass or use his skating to rush the puck." - Tiano

"Already matching last year’s output in 30 less games puts this puck rushing phenomin 1st round territory. Fitting the Julius Honka profile to a tee, Vande Sompel is even more explosive and dangerous gearing up through the neutral zone. He’s so dangerous, he is flexed as a forward on special teams and doesn’t look out of place. His versatility, which looked suspicious in terms of his defensive ability last year, has now become a persuasive statement on his pure hockey ability this year." - Mauro

"Oshawa Generals sophomore defender, Mitchell Vande Sompel, continues to log impressive minutes and he’s earned every second of them. Heres one of the most intelligent defenders in the draft and with his skating ability and instinctual ability to read the ice, he projects as a an attractive puck-moving offensive defender. He can escape pressure with his high-end skating  ability but also displays smart decision making, choosing when to pick his offensive rushes. In myopinion, he’s hasn’t been getting the recognition he deserves in this draft class but after coming off a strong offensive month where he earned OHL Top Defenseman honours, I am sure the tideswill turn in the scouting world." - Ross

"Have to admit that I've been super impressed by his defensive play this year so far. He's looking more poised and confident and he's making a lot of good reads in his own end. Everyone knows how good the offensive side of his game is, so it's great to see the evolution of his defensive game. That said, you have to question how much size will hurt his draft position. But if Anthony DeAngelo can be a first rounder, so can Vande Sompel." - Otten

8. Matt Spencer - Defense - Peterborough Petes
Total Votes: 13
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 6th (1x)/Outside of the Top 10 (3x)
The Scoop:
"He's used in all situations and has proven to have good mobility; an all-around good skater. He's got good puck movement on the power-play and a good shot." - Morreale

"A strong solid defenceman who does his job and while he and his Petes have had their struggles this year, Spencer is still the best blueliner in the OHL eligible for the NHL draft." - Ambrogio

"It’s all about potential with Spencer as he works his way to being a two-way defender. His defense will define his game at the next level. He has size, very good skating abilities and a very good hitter. He continues to improve offensively. His skating, vision and passing abilities should give him success – but again it’s all about potential." - Tiano

"His game has grown on me the more I have seen him. His physical play has improved throughout the short season and he is contributing more to the offensive play as well. He is making smart plays with the puck and still has the other aspects that I have always liked such as impressive skating ability, defensive awareness and good size." - Stewart

"With Peterborough being so inconsistent this year, it's been relatively tough to get a read on Spencer. How much will scouts criticize him for being part of a pretty disappointing team (thus far anyway). While it might be early to say this, Spencer seems like a good candidate to have a lot riding on his performance at the Under 18's at the end of the year, where his size and mobility on the back end could make him Canada's go to shutdown guy at the event." - Otten 

7. Nikita Korostelev - Forward - Sarnia Sting
Total Votes: 16
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 6th (1x)/10th (1x)
The Scoop:
"Scouts love his outstanding wrist shot. He is a high-energy guy with a great compete level. He has been a fantastic complementary piece on Sarnia's top line with Zacha.  He likes to get involved and makes that line go." - Morreale

"He needs to develop his defensive side more but has improved early on after a full season last year. His shot is top notch. Has it been measured for quickest wrist shot? It has to be up there." - Sudeyko

"As a sniper, Nikita Korostelev needed to bury the puck this season in order to receive first round consideration for the NHL Draft and he’s done that (and more) with 11 goals on the season. He isan opportunistic scorer who has a knack for sliding into scoring areas and unleashing an extremely quick shot. The puck comes off his blade extremely quickly and he can make opponents pay before they realize it. His skating remains a work in progress and might scare away some teams from using a first round selection but his ability to find the net is rare. Korostelev shows flashes of good puck skills but because he isn’t the swiftest skater, his ability to maintain possession is short-lived once pressure closes in on him. As a result, he’s best playing the give-and-go puck rather than attempting individual rushes and then getting himself into position to score. Playing to his strengths (shooting) and improving his top-end speed will help him solidify a first round selection moving forward." - Ross

"Korostelev is a well mannered Russian who relies on quick strikes to make his impact. As soon as you wish he were more consistent and noticeable, he will pull off a jaw dropping deke or rip a laser through a hole no one else could see. His feet are abit heavy, which completely contradicts his one-on-one ability, but he is sneaky elusive with the puck. If he brings back his power game to where it was at the end of last season, he has a shot at being top 5 in the OHL in my book." - Mauro

6. Travis Konecny - Forward - Ottawa 67's
Total Votes: 16
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 4th (3x)/8th (1x)
The Scoop:
"He competes bigger than he is, and is already a natural at puck distribution with a free flowing skating motion that is like melted butter on a frying pan… I am trying to say smooth here." - Sudeyko

"Every year a player doesn’t live up to the lofty expectations set out on his sophomore season and this year, Travis Konecny hasn’t quite had the start that he’s probably envisioned. Battling through a concussion and taking on more responsibility as captain, Konecny may be putting too much pressure on himself. Eventually, the 2014 OHL Rookie of the Year will find his way out of it. Konecny continues to show an unmatched work ethic and drive to succeed and his elite level shooting ability continues to shine but the pucks aren’t finding their way as frequent as last year (three goals vs. 26 last year).  Travis started slowly in the goal department during his freshman season so let’s see if he can replicate his strong second half showing from last year." - Ross

"He's a very interesting prospect for the draft and, I think, a hard guy to peg right now. He plays the game hard and his leadership potential is through the roof. But, hockey is a game of production and Konecny hasn't even been the best player on his team on a lot of nights. He doesn't seem to have that same confidence in his shot that he showed last year as a rookie. You're looking at a 5'10 forward who's on pace for under 20 goals this year. As complete and tantalizing player he is, that type of offensive output just doesn't get you drafted in the first round, especially when you're undersized. That said, I still like him a lot as a prospect and I think he'll turn things around in the second half of the season." - Otten

"Terrific skater with high level skill and compete level, also shows leadership skills…captain of Ottawa and Canada at U-18’s." - Maloney

"Has high-end offensive skills and speed. Can both finish and make plays. Kind of disappointed in his play this season as he looks to be letting the pressure get to him. Looked better, more engaged last year in my opinion. His size was not a factor last year but this year he is getting pushed off puck and giving up on the play, something he did not do last season. Kid needs to get back some of that ‘get back up again’ mojo." - Stewart

"I love Konecny's skill set. Great skater, skill, vision and work ethic. On talent, he seems like a sure top 10 pick, but wow has his production underwhelmed that's it's really tough to justify him in that range especially for a smaller player. I hope it's a sample thing, but it's rare for a player who goes under a PPG over ~ 20 games to just tear the league up in the second half (at like 1.5PPG rate)." - Pronman

"Heart-and-soul kid with some great offensive moves. My only concern is his undersized frame, which has taken a beating so far in his OHL career." - Kennedy

5. Lawson Crouse - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Total Votes: 16
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 2nd (1x)/10th (1x)
The Scoop:
"He might be one of the toughest forwards in the O to knock off his skates when going to the net; very similar to Jack Eichel in that way. He's a big bodied guy, protects the puck and is solid on his skates. He can see the ice well and is able to move the puck to open areas despite his 6-foot-4, 211-pound frame." - Morreale

"Elite size and shows tentalizing skill. Everytime I see him though I am lefting wanting more. Not sure if it is because he is missing something or if I get so excited watching him play that I have unrealistic expectations. Defenitly a player who could move up on my list by the end of the year." - Kneulman

"Crouse is a player I absolutely love. I had a hard time knocking him down to fourth in my rankings because he’s the player that every coach wants on his team because you can throw him out in every situation and know he’s going to make an impact. One of the smartest two-way forwards in the draft, Crouse has the size and strength that makes him a low-risk selection as he can play up and down the lineup. He’s shown impressive gains in his offensive gains and there’s no reason to think he won’t be a top-six winger at the next level. Every time he hits the ice, he does something – whether it’s dominating the cycle game or stripping an attacking player of possession – that makes you go, “wow, he’s going to be good." - Ross

"Intriguing power forward with very good size. He’s a very good skater with a very good burst of speed. He’s hard to contain on the rush, in front of the net or battling along the boards. Positionally smart and knows where to be without the puck. Crouse will probably translate to a secondary scorer but it’s his ability to take over a game physically that is intriguing." - Tiano

"The more I see him play, the more he does to make an impression. A solid skater with good puck skills. Strikes me as a smart player. He rarely is out of position." - Ambrogio

"He’s huge at 6’4 215lbs at 17 years old and skates very well…still raw though, but a hard combination to pass up." - Maloney

"Crouse is one of those players that will be a better pro play than a junior player as a power forward." - Fournier

"I have seen a lot of Lawson Crouse from his minor hockey days and now in the OHL and I think he still has another level to reach. Very high hockey IQ. A big man at 6 foot 3 who has excellent skating ability is not easy to find. He uses his frame well to win battles along the boards and forecheck. Strong on the puck, can take contact and drive the net. Would like to see him finish more." - Paiva

"A big, physical power forward who undoubtedly will get better as the years go on. Scouts loved him at the CHL-Russia Super Series." - Kennedy

4. Pavel Zacha - Forward - Sarnia Sting
Total Votes: 16
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 2nd (1x)/7th (1x)
The Scoop:
"I've definitely been impressed. He's been way more physical and aggressive in attacking the net than I thought he would be. At the beginning of the season, I felt like he was passing up scoring opportunities and not being aggressive enough with the puck. But, he's getting better and better each week and has a ton of potential due to his size, skating ability, skill level, and blossoming power game. Sometimes Import players come in with such high expectations that it can be hard for them to meet or exceed them, but Zacha has been one of the rare ones thus far." - Otten

"The thing with Pavel is the potential he has. Being on a struggling squd he won't put the points up as McDavid and Strome. Instead you just think of what he will becoming in five years down the road." - Fournier

“Scoring just under a PPG on a below .500 team just reinforces the fact that stats need context in Pavel Zacha’s case. A brick house on skates, Zacha has been a pillar down the middle and shown individual explosiveness in open ice. Always dialed in as he supports the play, Zacha is relied on to lug the puck in transition and has a small man’s touch. This thoroughbred power center is about as much of a lock for top ten in the 2015 NHL Draft as there is with 3 S’s.” - Mauro

"It took the big Czech a few games to get comfortable but Pavel Zacha’s pro upside is extremely high and that alone edges out challengers Marner, Crouse, Strome and Konecny (all of whom areworthy candidates for the second spot). The left-shooting pivot owns an intelligent processor and outstanding vision, displaying advanced creativity and the ability to play as a shooter as well.He is capable of playing a power game, shaking off of pressure easily with his first few powerful strides and as he steps into a scoring area, he can unleash an array of deceptive shots. The scary part – Zacha is still finding his way in the OHL and we have yet to see him play the buzzer-to-buzzer dominant game that he’s capable of." - Ross

"The Czech import certainly has been impressive offensively this season but more so as a two-way threat IMO. I love how he uses his size to engage deep in his own zone, stripping the puck and then skating it back up ice. Possesses all the tools you want in a complete player, now just need to sharpen them up. I have really been impressed by his intelligence with the puck as well." - Stewart

"Comes as advertised, but foolish slew foot penalty and 2 game suspension from it, another major for charging shows lack of discipline." - Clark

3. Mitch Marner - Forward - London Knights
Total Votes: 16
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 2nd (5x)/5th (3x)
The Scoop:
"Mitchell Marner can dance on skates. He is tremendously exciting and energetic with the puck. He can make some truly spectacular plays with his creativity and confidence. He’s got excellent mobility and lateral agility. He’s also got some impressive puck skills and a quick shot release. He does need to pack onthe pounds and start drinking more protein shakes. Marner has some of the hottest hands in the league right now with his recent point-scoring barrage." - Grainda

"So have people settled on his nickname… little magician? Marvelous one? Merlin… anything else that starts with M. Sure he is now 5’11” which means a guess turned out to be true a few years ago. His brother is over 6’ so there was a it of a fear that hemay not grow considering he was 5’7.5” as a Minor Midget player. That all aside, takethe puck off him, I dare you. He doesn’t have to be a one man band. He is in a great development system and he has shown that he is ready for that next step. Almost a point per game last year wasn’t a fluke. He had 46 assists! It isn’t as easy as passing to Domi and letting him score ya know. He can skate better than most, great puck control, grew into his frame, or grew his frame and has already passed last years goal totals from last year in a third of the time… If he isn’t in the top 10 at the NHL draft I will be shocked." - Sudeyko

"No doubt he got off to a slow start, but consider this: In their last nine games, Marner has out-produced Connor McDavid. And it’s no surprise that his London Knights have climbed up the standings in that time. As Marner goes, so do the Knights. His hockey smarts and vision set him apart from most others. He can seemingly make a pass that not many can see. He makes everyone around him better and he can create for himself as well. His vision and playmaking ability makes him excellent on either point on the powerplay." - Tiano

"The thing that really resonates for me about Marner is his ability to make his teammates better. He's such a well rounded offensive player who thinks the game on another level. He forces a lot of turnovers off the forecheck because of how well he reads the situation. Whether it's off the rush, coming off the half-wall, or working behind the net, he's able to slow the game down and dictate the pace for his linemates." - Otten

"Playing with a bunch of vets last season, Marner stood out for me. That hasn't changed this year. I'm impressed with his ability to play a 200 foot game." - Ambrogio

2. Dylan Strome - Forward - Erie Otters
Total Votes: 16
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 1st (from the panelist who chose not to rank Connor McDavid in order to highlight other players)/5th (1x)
The Scoop: 
"Dylan Strome has some impressive professional qualities in his game. He’s a very strong player with great size and strength. His hockey intelligence is really good. He makes plays with his quality passing, smart possession game and solid hockey sense. His footwork and skating stride still need some improvements. Right now he has to be the second best prospect because the numbers he is putting up this season are really impressive.” - Grainda

"Speed, shot, creativity, smarts. Dylan Strome certainly has it all and on top of that he has NHL bloodlines as his brother Ryan is showing he belongs in the NHL right now. Equally adept at helping out on D when back checking and starting the break out." - Kneulman

"He was the other Otters star to be last year… and now… he is the star. Again, take McDavid out of the equation and Strome would still lead this team. Would he be leading the league in scoring? Tough to say. However, it wouldn’t take away from his overall package. I didn’t want to look up the pace of his older brother, but if you likedRyan in his draft year, I would say Dylan is better. With a quick pass he is off to the races. Scoring is in his blood. And he knows how to get to open space to either receive the puck or draw defenders away from teammates. If you want a flaw, he can be a one man show a little too much. Although I am sure the same thing was said of some great players before him. Defensively needs to get better but what pure scorer doesn’t need that entering their draft year. I wouldn’t be worried about his growth, but straight talent compared to everyone else not named McDavid… Strome is the best of the bunch. Strome has been around McDavid for many seasons now, going back to the minors. If he needs any help, he not only had a great coaching staff, but a mini mentor who has a wealth of experience… despite being the same age." - Sudeyko

"McDavid’s teammate in Erie, Dylan Strome could’ve easily been ranked second on this list and come draft day, it will come down to personal preference. He plays the game at a high-pace and is always pushing the pace of the game. He is a creative passer with elite level vision and his crafty puck skills allows him to a strong possession game. His skating is improving from what used to be somewhat wild and heavy footed. With an elongated stride, Strome propels himself up the ice with ease erasing any of those previous concerns. Strome is a confident offensive player but at times he tries to do too much and it leads to some unnecessary turnovers but it’s this individual skill that is what makes him a special talent with intriguing upside." - Ross

"Dylan Strome presents the obvious dilemma for scouts: McDavid beneficiary or starin his own right? Signs are pointing him to growing into a budding star who can function on his own. Last year, Strome was a raw product as a gangly, tall guy whose coordination was challenged daily. Add in the fact that Erie boasted Burakovsky, Fox, Brown, and McDavid ahead of him, and his impact was likely blunted. His skating needs some polishing, but Strome is developing into a brilliant two way center with surreal sense of the ice and very soft handle on the puck." - Mauro

"With McDavid on the shelf, the focus is on Dylan Strome and yet he continues to produce. Strome has a great pro shot, love his wrist shot. He knows how to find open space too. Sometimes he holds onto the puck too much, but he can distribute the puck well and when he does, he makes other teammates better. He's got the height at 6 foot 3, and needs to pack on a few more pounds." - Paiva

1. Connor McDavid - Forward - Erie Otters
Total Votes: 15 (one panelist chose to leave him off in order to highlight the accomplishments of others)
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 1st (14x)
The Scoop:
"The injury in no way should or will change anyone's opinion of this world class talent. I remember a conversation I had with Windsor Spitfires forward Joshua Ho Sang last spring before he was chosen late in the first round by the New York Islanders. I asked Ho Sang about his time spent with McDavid with the Toronto Marlboros minor midget AAA team in 2011-12. Ho Sang told me that everyone knows how gifted a player he is but no one ever seems to talk about his work ethic. Ho Sang said McDavid didn't drop onto the Earth with all this talent, he truly worked at it. Ho Sang said he's known McDavid since the age of 9 and feels his work ethic is what has gotten him this far and will take him to even greater heights in the future." - Morreale

"Playing under the critical eye of everyone, Connor McDavid has somehow exceeded the impossible expectations created by the hoopla of the draft. Racking up 51 points in just 18 games lauching his Erie Otters to the top of the CHL standings (before getting hurt in a fight), McDavid has the hockey world drooling over his pro future. Poised, professional and humble throughout the process, McDavid continues to stick to playing his game. Elite in every skill, McDavid has proved to be not only “exceptional” but extraordinary in the face of adversity." - Ross

"2015’s #1 has done everything in his power to maintain his lead on the star American, Jack Eichel. After coming up one point shy of 100 in his pre-draft year in the OHL, we all knew McDavid would be this successful. What wasn’t so concrete was how well rounded he would present both on and off ice. An exhausting forward to defend against, he is a star athlete who can pull off amazing movements at seemingly half speed. Scouting McDavid is now about understanding every detail that makes him tick to use him as the gold standard for rating other prospects.” - Mauro

"Kid just has too much talent and intelligence to not be the top pick, not only out of the OHL but hands down overall best talent I have seen in major junior since Crosby. His impressive speed and how he uses it in combination with his slick hands and vision when carrying the puck makes him so intimidating for OHL defenders to face. The way he anticipates his opponents next move as well as what his line mates will do and his creativity with the puck all wrapped up into one neat package are traits that are not common. Prospects like this, they just don't come around very often." - Stewart

"There is nothing more to add than what others have said. I remember a conversation I had with an OHL GM last season who raved about McDavid's skating ability and that explosive first step. That more than anything is the first thing you notice, when he turns it up a notch." - Ambrogio

"The boy genius. One scout told me he has the best hockey IQ he's ever seen, others are saying he's better than Crosby at the same age. An offensive juggernaut who makes insane plays at high speeds." - Kennedy

Others Receiving Consideration (Honorable Mentions):

Thomas Schemitsch - Defense - Owen Sound Attack (4 votes)
Highest Placement: 9th (2x)
Comments:
"I wrote this about his brother Geoffrey in 2010...
 "No player on this list raised his stock as much as Schemitsch. From the major midget land of draft obscurity to the Under 18's and the potential to be selected in the top 100 of the NHL draft. Schemitsch had a very strong rookie season in the OHL for a very disappointing team. In a way, he was one of the few bright spots for the Attack. Schemitsch has OK size, but he's already a very capable two way defender. He played in all situations for the Attack this year and has the mobility to defend off the rush, as well as the intelligence to read and react to situation in the defensive zone. Offensively he runs the point really well and can make a strong first pass. He has good vision on the ice and does a good job of finding his teammates in transition. A few negatives I want to mention though. Whether it was a conditioning thing or something else, Schemitsch's play really slipped towards the end of the season and he was a lot better in the first half of the year in comparison to the second. Also, for a more offensive defenseman, he can be somewhat timid in rushing the puck up ice. At the World Under 18's, I felt like he struggled with this in particular. Teams with a strong forecheck, who don't give him the time to bring the puck up, can often force him into turnovers. But you have to think that Schemitsch will improve and will gain the confidence necessary to take his game to that next level."
...now take all the negatives I mentioned there (size, aggressiveness with the puck, conditioning) and turn them into positives and you've got Thomas. One of the most underrated prospects eligible for this draft IMO." - Otten

"Kid has really turned his game up this season as he looks more comfortable both defending and going on the attack (no pun intended). His decision making and ability to move the puck are traits that have NHL scouts excited for his future." - Stewart

"Probably underrated in some circles, but I make the drive to Owen Sound quite a bit and admit every time I’ve seen him, he has surprised and impressed me. He’s a very good skater, intelligent player, and has very good size which he uses to punish opponents. Add to that his willingness to (intelligently) jump into the offense and you have a well rounded defender. If he can continue that throughout the season, he’ll continue to climb." - Tiano

 10. Blake Speers - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (4 votes)
Highest Placement: 5th (1x)
Comments:
"One of my favorite draft eligibles from the OHL. He's an all-around player and does all the little things right. It will be fun to watch him grow the next few years." - Fournier

"Kid has really blossomed this year as he is getting the minutes and showing what he can do when given the opportunity. The line of Miller, Bunting, and Speers is quickly becoming the Hounds go to line for offence." - Stewart

"There are a lot of slick moving players on this list and in this draft class. You want to talk North South skaters you put Speers at the top of the list. Add in a lightning fast shot and he is a threat if you give him an inch of space. He has filled out but may need a few more pounds. Last season he earned his ice time and unlike a few others on this list, will not be a major go to player on his team. Speers has the benefit of playing behind some talented veterans that will allow him to still develop without the heavy push that some get." - Sudeyko

Rasmus Andersson - Defense - Barrie Colts (3 votes)
Highest Placement: 6th (1x)
Comments:
"Andersson is a player I'm divided on. When he came over from Sweden, I talked to scouts who varied from first rounder to not a prospect, probably due to his wildly inconsistent play at times. Very talented puck mover with high-end upside but lot of holes in his game." - Pronman

Mitchell Stephens - Forward - Saginaw Spirit (3 votes)
Highest Placement: 9th (1x)
Comments:
"He plays a high energy, two way game. He sees the ice well and is able to use his quickness to get himself open. Scouts tell me he has very good hands and good puck-handling ability." - Morreale

Mackenzie Blackwood - Goaltender - Barrie Colts (2 votes)
Highest Placement: 8th (1x)
Comments:
"Tall goaltender at 6 foot 4 and 200 pounds who covers the net very well. Aggressive in the goal. Loves to challenge shooters. Moves well side to side. Barrie missed him when he was injured. Can win hockey games on his own. Coming off an injury, the question is his durability." - Paiva

"At 6’4” he is a big boy in the pipes and it may surprise you to see how acrobatic he can be. Speedy legs and solid positioning makes him appear ready for that jump to the next level. He went from the out house to the penthouse so to speak as he hasn’t been playing the position for as long as his counterparts. Size, speed and strength gives a solid base for further development." - Sudeyko

Travis Dermott - Defense - Erie Otters (1 vote)
Highest Placement: 9th (1x)
Comments:
"Dealing with foot and hand injuries to open the year kept Dermott sidelined for 7 out of the Otters’ first 20GP. With fractured comfort and inability to participate in more than 1/3 of the Otters’ high scoring games leaves him with the tough task of earning 2015 NHL Draft praise. Dermott is an intelligent, enabling puck mover who makes confidently crisp passes across every inch of the ice. He emits no fear with opponents barreling down him showing NHL grade poise, mobility, and vision. Dermott is one of those high IQ players you can’t count out as riser once the meat of the season hits." - Mauro

Dante Salituro - Forward - Ottawa 67's (1 vote)
Highest Placement: 7th (1x)
Comments:
"The third year player benefitted from having a late birthday.  Moves at full speed, all the time, has gotten better and better up the middle as the years has gone on and learned to distribute the puck really well. Works really hard to take the puck away and doesn’t view himself as a small guy, which reminds you that it isn’t the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the… well I don’t know how it ends, but it ends with Salituro winning the puck battle." - Sudeyko

Matt Luff - Forward - Belleville Bulls (1 vote)
Highest Placement: 7th (1x)
Comments:
"A big wing (6-1, 179) who is starting to earn more ice time. He likes to use his size, fights through checks and has a real good wrist shot with a quick release. He's starting to get some special teams play and he could be a sleeper in the draft." - Morreale

Brett McKenzie - Forward - North Bay Battalion (1 vote)
Highest Placement: 10th (1x)
Comments:
"When you look at what he accomplished in his Minor Midget season and his OHL rookie season, you see that there is still much to be desired. Don’t get me wrong he still possesses strong legs and some great speed, and a decent shot. His overall package has developed playing under Stan Butler and it will continue to shape him over the next few seasons." - Sudeyko

Vince Dunn - Defense - Niagara IceDogs (1 vote)
Highest Placement: 9th (1x)
Comments:
"Undersized D man?   Doesn't apply.  Moves the puck well, QB's a PP that was dynamite last year, but struggling this year." - Clark