Thursday, September 21, 2017

2017/18 OHL Season Preview: Award Predictions

The conclusion to my three part season preview sees me look at potential award candidates for 2017/18.

Red Tilson Trophy - Nick Suzuki (Owen Sound Attack)
A tough choice for this award. As always, lots of strong contenders to choose from. IMO, the three leading candidates all come from the West; Nick Suzuki, Adam Mascherin, and Jordan Kyrou. I expect all three to be up near the top of league scoring this year, which is obviously a prerequisite of earning this award (unless you play a position other than forward). My money is on Suzuki. The Attack will have one heck of an offense this year and he's returning with his entire line from last year (Gadjovich and Hancock). Even with a potential appearance at the WJC's for Canada, Suzuki should be up around the 110+ point mark. Mascherin would be my second choice. Healthy and part of a strong Kitchener offense, he could be a 50/60 player this year; his last in the OHL. And Kyrou will put up points, especially if he ends up being dealt from Sarnia if they struggle. Goaltender Dylan Wells is a darkhorse candidate. If the Petes are going to win their division this year it will be on his back due to an inexperienced blueline. Other candidates could include Taylor Raddysh, Jason Robertson, Robert Thomas, Cliff Pu, Owen Tippett, and Michael McLeod (if he's returned).

OHL Goaltender of the Year - Jacob Ingham (Mississauga Steelheads)
Kind of a tough one to predict this year. Michael Dipietro is the best goalie in the league IMO, but the Spitfires aren't likely to be very good and that eliminates Dipietro from the running. Dylan Wells seems like an obvious choice because of his talent level and the strength of the team he's playing on. But the inexperience of that Peterborough defense scares me. I think they'll win games, but it might hurt Wells' statline. That brings me to Jacob Ingham. It's not uncommon for draft eligible players to win this award. Alex Nedeljkovic won it recently in his draft year. And I think the Steelheads will be a defensive force to be reckoned with this year, putting Ingham in great position to post an impressive statline. Plus...he's quite good. Matthew Villalta is a darkhorse candidate in the Soo, and overager Jeremy Helvig is an option if he can get the Fronts to where they were last year despite some veteran losses on the blueline.

Max Kaminski Trophy - Victor Mete (London Knights)
This is an interesting one. I expect Ryan Merkley to lead defenseman in scoring this year, but given his tendency to playing inconsistent at both ends, I'm believing voters will go more for a two-way defender who will also be up near the top of the blueline scoring race. My prediction is Victor Mete. He's come a long way during his OHL career and has become one of the league's elite defenders. He should put up some serious points this year (I'm going with 65+) and will be a key cog on another strong London Knights team. Conor Timmins and Nic Hague, two recent NHL draft picks, are also serious candidates. Both will play on strong teams and put up points, and both can impact the game at both ends of the ice. Markus Phillips, Cam Dineen, Riley Stillman, and Olli Juolevi (if he returns) are all possibilities too.

Emms Family Award - Andrei Svechnikov (Barrie Colts)
I think most people would be shocked (barring injury) if Svechnikov isn't the league's rookie of the year this year. Super high expectations for the Russian import and potential top 3 pick in this year's NHL draft. He could easily be a 40 goal scorer this year and put up over 80 points. Cam Hillis is another 2000 born player who has a great chance to put up some points in a high flying Guelph offense. Wouldn't surprise me at all if he was a point per game player or close to it this year. Among 2001's, I actually like Arthur Kaliyev to make among the largest impacts and I see him battling it out with Ryan Suzuki, Nick Porco, Philip Tomasino, Aiden Prueter, and Graeme Clark for top scoring 2001 this year. Also don't be surprised if a goaltender is in the running. Lots of teams relying on young/rookie goaltenders this year. Luke Cavallin in Flint and Jordan Kooy in London are the first two that come to mind.

Leo Lalande Trophy - Logan DeNoble (Peterborough Petes)
Lots of good options to choose from for the OA of the Year this year. Ryan Moore is the highest scoring returning player and that makes him a front runner. Jeremy Helvig and Evan Cormier are going to need to stand on their head to give their teams a chance a top 6 spot in their Conference. Brett McKenzie, Garrett McFadden, Kenny Heuther, and Nikita Korostelev (if he returns) are all players that I expect to have terrific offensive seasons. But the guy I'm going with is Logan DeNoble. The Petes are going to score their share of goals this year and DeNoble will be a guy counted upon to reproduce his 34 goals of last year and then some. I actually think he has a chance to be a 45+ goal scorer this year, as his shot is one of the best in the league. As such, that's who I'm going with.

Matt Leyden Trophy - Drew Bannister (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds)
Lots of coaching turnover this year in the league, and voters can often be swayed to vote for coaches who have been around for a few years. I expect the Greyhounds to be a top 3 team in the entire OHL this year and the top candidate for the West title. As such, Bannister gets my vote here. James Richmond in Mississauga is another candidate cut from the same cloth (as a returnee). I expect the Guelph Storm to be the league's most improved team this year and that automatically qualifies George Burnett. If the 67's surprise people and end up as a top 5 East team (as I have predicted) Andre Tourigny could be a candidate too. Todd Gill in Owen Sound could be another new face (to his team, not the league) who garners consideration.

Eddie Powers Trophy - Nick Suzuki (Owen Sound Attack)
Tough call this year. As always, a lot of the league's top players will miss some time due to late starts returning from the NHL, and from the WJC's. Quite often the guy who takes the Eddie Powers is the one who can squeeze in close to a full season (ie, gets cut from the NHL early, gets cut from his WJC team). Like Alex Debrincat last year. Or Dylan Strome a few years ago. Occasionally we see an OA lead in scoring too for the same reasons. Was close to going with Ryan Moore for that reason as I see him putting up points. But ultimately I went with Nick Suzuki as I seem him carving up the league as part of that dominant first line in Owen Sound. As mentioned earlier, I think he's up over 110 points on the year. Adam Mascherin and Jordan Kyrou will be right there too IMO. Additionally, Robert Thomas and Cliff Pu could be close as Knights.

Goal Scoring Leader - Owen Tippett (Mississauga Steelheads)
Last year, Alex Debrincat ran away with this one. I expect this year's race to be much closer. I'm going with Owen Tippett who probably scores 50+ this year in Mississauga. Or at least they'll need him to, to capture the East like I've predicted. Adam Mascherin would be my second choice. Dude is going to have a monster season now that he's healthy (something I think I've mentioned several times already). Jonah Gadjovich, Boris Katchouk, and Logan DeNoble are three other names that I think will be right up there. All possess great shots, will be playing with great playmakers, and all play fearlessly and score a lot from in close. Lastly, even though I don't think Sudbury has a great year, you have to mention Dmitry Sokolov here. Highest scoring returning player to the league and he's another year stronger (and hopefully quicker).

1st Team All Stars:
LW: Adam Mascherin
C: Nick Suzuki
RW: Owen Tippett
D: Victor Mete
D: Ryan Merkley
G: Jacob Ingham
Coach: Drew Bannister

2nd Team All Stars:
LW: Jonah Gadjovich
C: Robert Thomas
RW: Jordan Kyrou
D: Conor Timmins
D: Nic Hague
G: Dylan Wells
Coach: George Burnett

3rd Team All Stars: 
LW: Boris Katchouk
C: Ryan Moore
RW: Taylor Raddysh
D: Markus Phillips
D: Cam Dineen
G: Matthew Villalta
Coach: Todd Gill

1st All Rookie Team:
LW: Nicholas Porco
C: Ryan Suzuki
RW: Andrei Svechnikov
D: Merrick Rippon
D: Nikita Okhotyuk
G: Jordan Kooy

2nd All Rookie Team:
LW: Ethan Keppen
C: Cody Morgan
RW: Arthur Kaliyev
D: Thomas Harley
D: Nico Gross
G: Luke Cavallin

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

2017/18 OHL Season Preview: Western Conference

Part two of my season preview examines what to expect from the Western Conference. I think that the Conference is very top heavy this year with a few teams at the top being considerably better than the rest. That's not to say that I believe the rest of the Conference to be poor, just that I really like the make-up of a couple teams near the top.

1. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (West Division Champs)
A weaker division leads me to believe that the Greyhounds should be the top team in not only the Western Conference, but the entire OHL. This is a tremendous team and they could very well be playing in the league's weakest division this year too. Usually a recipe for success. Offensively, this team is super deep and they play the game extremely hard. A top 6 of Morgan Frost, Boris Katchouk, Jack Kopacka, Tim Gettinger, Barrett Hayton, and Hayden Verbeek should be among the best in the league. I look at Hayton, in particular, as a big time breakout candidate in his draft year. Conor Timmins, Noah Carroll, and Mac Hollowell make up a veteran top 3 on the back-end, with one of Anthony DeMeo or Jacob LeGuerrier sliding into the top four. Timmins should have another monster season. And lastly, the Hounds enter the season as one of the few contenders in the Conference without a question mark in goal. Matthew Villalta will be the starter and should build off of a solid rookie season last year. Joseph Raaymakers continues to hold out at home, awaiting a trade. With the number of teams needing a starter in the league, I'm actually shocked that he hasn't been moved yet. I wonder if the Hounds can get a veteran defender back for him.

2. Owen Sound Attack (Midwest Division Champs)
Should be another strong season for the Attack. Owen Sound is returning the vast majority of their forwards from last season, including their entire first line of Nick Suzuki, Jonah Gadjovich, and Kevin Hancock. Another year wiser, and stronger, that top unit should absolutely tear apart the OHL. Some combination of Alan Lyszczarczyk (who was a great pick up), Ethan Szypula, Maksim Sushko, Aidan Dudas, and Matthew Struthers will provide the secondary scoring for what should be one of the highest scoring teams in the league. I suppose the one question I have is how well will they keep pucks out? I'm not convinced that Zack Bowman can be the top line starter that they need him to be. And I'm also not convinced that the team won't feel the loss of Santino Centorame. Markus Phillips is a guy who will need to play at the level he was at in the second half last year. He needs to emerge as one of the league's elite defenders to bring this team to the top of the Conference. I also look to Jacob Friend to stay healthy and contribute more on the offensive end. Even with a few minor question marks, I'd be shocked if this team wasn't one of the best in the league.

3. Kitchener Rangers 
Maybe a bit of a bold prediction. But this is a strong team on paper and I just have a gut feeling that it will translate to a terrific performance this year (and the exhibition season indicated that as well). Healthy, I see Adam Mascherin having a beastly season that could see him as a Red Tilson candidate. He's supported by a very deep group of forwards like the underrated Connor Bunnaman and the highly motivated Greg Meireles. Also feel that the two imports Kitchener brought in (Hugg and Liska) are going to be impact players. Additionally I really like the way Kitchener's defense is lining up. A ton of size. A ton of truculence. This should be a tough unit to line up against. I suppose there are some questions as to who moves the puck, but Logan Stanley, Connor Hall, Doug Blaisdell, and Gio Vallati are a terrific top four. The question mark is in net, but many of the West contenders are entering the season with similar concerns (London, Guelph, Owen Sound). With all the guys that Kitchener has brought in to the fold (like OA Anthony Dumont-Bouchard), you have to think one guy can step up to provide quality goaltending. Ultimately, I think that guy is Luke Richardson, but I guess we'll see. Again, I just like the make up of this team and have high expectations.

4. London Knights
Hard to imagine London struggling this year, even with some major graduations from last year's team (especially Tyler Parsons). This is still a very talented team. I wouldn't be shocked if Max Jones spends time in the NHL this year and is returned late, but Cliff Pu, Robert Thomas, Alex Formenton, Jesper Bratt, and Sam Miletic will hold down the fort and should give the Knights a consistent scoring attack. And Victor Mete and Evan Bouchard are an excellent guaranteed top 2 on the back-end, and it looks like Olli Juolevi could be back thanks to a poor training camp in Vancouver. Certainly not as good of a defense as in year's past, but those three could all see 30+ minutes a night. And in net, Tyler Johnson and Jordan Kooy should provide a decent 1/2 punch. Bottom line, this London team is going to have to score goals to win hockey games without Tyler Parsons back there and they've got the offensive talent to do that.

5. Guelph Storm
Big jump for the Storm this year but they're talented enough to do it. Their talented youngsters are another year older and are now supported by the likes of Alexei Toropchenko, Cam Hillis, Owen Lalonde, and Mark Shoemaker. Up front, I absolutely love this team and I can't wait to see what they can do at full staff. Givani Smith, Isaac Ratcliffe, Nate Schnarr, James McEwan, Toropchenko, and Hillis is an excellent top 6 and one that should be very exciting to watch. But the depth on the 3rd and 4th lines should be better now with the addition of Zach Poirier and improvements from Liam Hawel and Nick Deakin-Poot. This team will score goals. Defensively, the addition of Owen Lalonde was huge and just what this team needed. Merkley, Lalonde, Samorukov, and Garrett McFadden. That's a defensive unit that can create offensively. Again, this team will score goals. Don't take penalties against this team as their powerplay should be deadly. The huge question mark is in net and it makes or breaks this team as a potential top 4 team in the Conference. Ultimately, I think they go out and get a goalie (Raaymakers?), but until then Popovich and Daws will hold down the fort. Because of the high risk/high reward style I expect Guelph to play, goaltending will be critical.

6. Saginaw Spirit
Hey, look, someone else from the West Division is going to need to play well and end up as a middle of the Conference team. Quite frankly, it could be any of Saginaw, Sarnia, Flint or Windsor. But here's why I think Saginaw is the best bet. Defense and goaltending. Even though Evan Cormier hasn't really established himself as one of the league's elite yet, it's his overage year and he's fighting for a contract. So he needs a big year. And on defense, you've got a solid top four of Marcus Crawford, Keaton Middleton, Hayden Davis, and Caleb Everett. Preventing goals with a similar unit was an issue last year, but hopefully that's corrected this year with more motivated players. Offensively, this is an underrated team. No true star, but a lot of quality top 9 forwards who can bring speed and tenacity. Brady Gilmour should be better this year. You've got some talented 2000's in their draft year (Giroux, Grondin), and I actually think recently drafted 2001's Nick Porco and Aiden Prueter could have big seasons. With the right mind set and game plan, this is a team that could find success in a weak division. And if they don't, and disappoint again, ownership needs to come up with a new game plan.

7. Erie Otters
This team could be a lot better than people are giving them credit for. If they played in the West Division, I'd have them much higher in the Conference. But I'm not sure they've got the depth this year to consistently beat the likes of Kitchener, Owen Sound, London, and even Guelph. Someone has to finish at the bottom of that division. I also think that at some point this season, the Otters deal off talent (even if Dave Brown says otherwise), to recoup assets lost over the last few years. It's certainly rare for all five teams in a division to end up with winning records and a playoff birth, but it happens, and it happened in the West as recent as 2014/15. Up front, Erie should be able to put the puck in the net with two solid scoring lines and a quality powerplay unit led by Taylor Raddysh and Ivan Lodnia. The defense is a veteran laden group (although less so when they figure out their OA situation, likely) led by Jordan Sambrook. And in net, Troy Timpano is good enough and consistent enough to get this team to the playoffs yet again. You win on the back of your stars and Erie has those. At least until January, I expect this team to be pretty solid.

8. Sarnia Sting
If I was a betting man, I'd put my money on one of Saginaw or Sarnia to be that other team from the Midwest to make a bit of noise. But they're very different teams. Sarnia has top end talent but little depth, which is different than the deep/balanced team I analyzed earlier in Saginaw. The Sting will score goals, just as they did last year. Jordan Kyrou is going to have a monster year (so long as he returns from Blues camp). Drake Rymsha will be better. Adam Ruzicka will be better. Anthony Salinitri will be better. Ryan McGregor will be better. This team will put the puck in the net. But will they keep the puck out? I'm just not sure. A very young defense in the Western Conference can be a dicey proposition. You could be in trouble if you're relying on a guy like Nick Grima to be a top 2 defender and one of your veteran leaders on the back end. And I just don't think Justin Fazio is a good enough goaltender to carry a young defense to a significant record. I suppose the real question is, if Sarnia ends up near the bottom of the Conference again (which seems inevitable to me), do they move Kyrou to a contender for a King's ransom? I think the answer to that has to be yes.

9. Flint Firebirds
Slight step backward here for the Firebirds after a tremendous season last year. I have full belief in this team moving forward. They've drafted well and they have a great coaching staff. But I just don't see them being able to make a consistent impact this year. A super young defense (although talented) and weak goaltending (even if Cavallin will be great one day) will mean a lot of pucks in the back of the net. Lots of rumours out there about Dennis Busby suffering an injury that will keep him out for at least the first month and that only makes matters worse. Although the Nic Mattinen acquisition does help a bit, I don´t think it will help enough. Nick Caamano, Ryan Moore, and Luke Kirwan form a great veteran back bone offensively, but I'd expect Caamano to be dealt at some point this year so that Flint can further support their rebuild. 

10. Windsor Spitfires
Yes, I know that they've had a great preseason. But the preseason means very little for team performance in the OHL. And you guys know how much love I have for Mike Dipietro. He's a stud and he's going to steal some games for this team. But here's what you have to ask yourself. Who's scoring goals and who's playing defense? Gabe Vilardi sounds like he's out for some time again after hurting himself in the offseason. When does he start up? Sounds like Ottawa intends to give Logan Brown every opportunity to make their roster and at the very least, he may get a 9 game look and not return until January. Mikhail Sergachev recently stated that he's done with the OHL and wants to be loaned to a European team should he not make the Lightning. And even with those guys, the depth just isn't there to compete consistently in the Western Conference. Now, of course, if all three of those guys return, certain guys step up, and Dipietro stands on his head, I could look like a fool here. But that's a lot of if's and buts that I just don't see happening.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

2017/18 OHL Season Preview: Eastern Conference

Tis the season again. The 2017/18 OHL season kicks off this coming Thursday night (the 21st). It´s time to make some predictions.

The Eastern Conference should be quite interesting this year. We have a few teams that look very strong on paper (Peterborough, Mississauga, Hamilton, for example). Also have some young, up and coming teams like Niagara and Ottawa who could surprise and compete earlier than expected. Even a team like Barrie could be better than people are giving them credit for. Basically what I am saying is that I see this as a very tough year to predict. But I´m going to try anyway!

1. Mississauga Steelheads (Central Division Champs)
Just going on a hunch here. I feel like the Steelheads are the most balanced team in the Eastern Conference with a quality goaltender, a solid top 5 defense and depth (and talent) up front. The other teams have some question marks for me. Of course, Mississauga has to worry about a few of their players making the NHL/AHL this year. With the Travis Zajac injury, I would actually be shocked to see Michael McLeod back to start the year. I think (at minimum) he gets a 9 game look which would mean that Mississauga will have to go at least a half a season without him (similar to Erie last year with Strome). Nathan Bastian appears to be 50/50. From a recent article, Devils coach John Hynes stated that they'll give him every opportunity to make the AHL, but if he's not ready, he'll return to the OHL for an OA year. At the very least, he won't be starting the season with the club. But I don´t see Tippett making Florida. Combine that with an emerging talent like Ryan McLeod, and veterans Trent Fox, Jacob Cascagnette, and Brandon Harrogate and you have the depth to cover Mikey´s (and possibly Bastian's) promotion. Jacob Ingham looks to be solid heading into his NHL draft season and will likely be one of the league´s best this year. And the addition of Merrick Rippon should really help an already quality blueline (consisting of Hague, Moverare, Gibson, and Osmanski). Again, this is a well balanced team built around veterans and that is usually a recipe for great success in this league. They just can´t afford to start as slowly as they did last year.

2. Peterborough Petes (East Division Champs)
The East Division is going to be super competitive this year. And all of them have some question marks too. Quite honestly, I would not be surprised at all if any of the 5 teams end up as division champs. So why Peterborough? Admittedly they´ve been very shaky this exhibition season with an inexperienced back-end. But, with Dylan Wells in net and maybe the deepest forward unit in the entire OHL, I have faith that they will figure it out (although I could see them starting slowly like Mississauga did last year). Without question Wells is the back bone and they will need him to be huge this year. The improvements he showed last year will need to be built upon as he will have to consistently bail out an inexperienced blueline that has seen a lot of turnover. Timms and Alex Black should form a nice top pairing, but they will need a guy like Declan Chisholm or Cole Fraser to really step up as a solid number 3; solidifying their second unit. Aforementioned, their offense should not be an issue. This team will score goals. This is especially true if Nikita Korostelev returns from NHL camp without a pro contract. I expect OA Logan DeNoble and veteran Jonathan Ang to have huge years.

3. Hamilton Bulldogs
Really the only question mark I have about this team is in net. I am not worried about Hamilton´s forward group. Will Bitten and Matthew Strome lead a very talented group that will play hard for coach Gruden. Good mix of veterans and youth. In particular, I think Artur Kaliyev has to be considered a favourite for rookie of the year. I am also not worried about Hamilton´s defense. This is a veteran laden group, led by the likes of Justin Lemcke, Cole Candella, Ben Gleason, and Connor Walters. This group has been through a lot the last few years and I expect them all to have good seasons. Where I am worried is in goal. Kaden Fulcher could be a quality goaltender in this league, but as of yet he hasn´t taken that next step forward to be a consistent starter. The defense should make things easier for him this year, but he will still have to come up with some big saves and a few off nights could be the difference between first and third in a very tough/evenly balanced division. If Fulcher takes that step forward, this Bulldogs team could not only take the division, but also the Conference.

4. Oshawa Generals
Oshawa is set to be a pretty solid overall team this year on paper. Not overly dominant in one area, but well rounded. Up front, they've got a solid young group of forwards led by new captain Jack Studnicka and supported by the likes of Allan McShane, Domenic Commisso, Danil Antropov, and Serron Noel. OA's Mason Kohn and Kenny Heuther could be big producers too. On defense, I look for Riley Stillman to take that next step as one of the better two-way defenders in the league this year. And the group, as a whole, is big and mean and will make life difficult for opposing forwards in the offensive end. I'm curious to see how highly touted Swiss defender Nico Gross adapts and performs as a rookie. I guess the one real question I have is how well Kyle Keyser performs as a starter this year. I think he's going to be solid, but it is his first year being handed a starter's role so you never know how he'll handle it. Look for the Generals to be in the middle of the pack in the Conference this year with an aim at being at the top for 2018/19.

5. Ottawa 67's
Big believer of this solid young team. The 67's have drafted exceptionally well the last few years and the rebuild of this storied franchise is in full swing. On paper, there's certainly some question marks. Who will step up to be a dominant and reliable scorer? Sasha Chmelevski? Austen Keating? Travis Barron? Tye Felhaber? Four guys who were highly touted but haven't delivered the goods consistently yet. However, they are supported by a host of quality young players (rookie or not). While not all of these guys will work out, odds say that only a couple need too for the 67's to have a half decent offense moving forward. I look for Kody Clark to have a breakout year, in particular. It's the young defense that I really like on this team. Noel Hoefenmayer and Kevin Bahl could make for a fantastic young pairing. And Russian Nikita Okhotyuk is the real deal. This is a potential superstar in the league. Also curious to see how Carter Robertson and Peter Stratis develop this season. In net, with OA Leo Lazerev finally moving on, the keys have been given to Olivier Lafreniere, with newly acquired Olivier Tremblay there as a mentor and fall back option. There will be some hiccups with this team, but I think they have enough talent to be a middle of the pack team this year.

6. Niagara IceDogs
Look, someone else from the Central Division is going to have to be a solid team. We're not going to have Mississauga at the top and the rest at the bottom. I think the upstart IceDogs are best positioned to be that team. Even though he's been a bit shaky this preseason, Stephen Dhillon was an absolute work horse last year, emerging as one of the more consistent netminders in the Conference. While his defense might not be as good as last year, I do like the acquisitions of Elijah Roberts and Zach Shankar and I think both fit in well with this team (Roberts as a puck mover and Shankar as a people mover). The defense is certainly a question mark though. And that means the offense is going to need to score goals. I think they can do that. Akil Thomas should have a huge draft year and is supported by breakout candidates like Kirill Maksimov, Ben Jones, rookie Philip Tomasino, and veteran Johnny Corneil. I think a healthy Matthew Philip is a sleeper breakout candidate too. Even with a questionable preseason performance, I like this team to be a playoff team in 2017/18.

7. Kingston Frontenacs
Quite often it's hard to be bad in this league if you've got star talent. 2-3 outstanding players can be enough to make you a playoff team and that's what I see in Kingston this year. Really, they're a similar team to the one that finished with home ice advantage in the first round last year (finishing 4th). But I think the Eastern Conference is better and deeper this year and that pushes this Fronts team down a peg or two. Jason Robertson is a legit offensive talent and he's going to have to do the majority of damage by himself yet again. Nathan Dunkley and Linus Nyman are solid supporting characters, but this was a team who finished dead last in goals scored last year and I don't see there being a ton of improvement coming. So that begs the question, can their defense be as good as it was last year? I'm just not sure. Rasanen, Paquette, and Liam Murray form the backbone, but I think this Kingston team will miss Stephen Desrocher and Nathan Billitier. In net, Jeremy Helvig is a solid veteran presence, but he's going to have to have an other worldly year to get this team back into the top four of the East IMO.

8. North Bay Battalion
Did you really expect me to predict a Stan Butler team to miss the playoffs two years in a row? Honestly though, it's going to be a close battle for the final few spots in the East, just as it was last year. I could easily see this Battalion team finishing last in the Conference, or I could see them as high as 5th or 6th. So why North Bay for the 8th and final spot? I like their defense. A healthy Cam Dineen. A year older Brady Lyle. A year more experienced Adam Thilander. A motivated Riley Bruce. A veteran Jesse Saban. This is a quality defense and potentially one of the better ones in the Eastern Conference. Will they be able to cover up massive question marks in net? I think definitely some nights. And others, likely not. Offensively, Brett McKenzie returns as an OA and he could have a big year. Also look for Adam McMaster to have a breakout season offensively. That's a solid 1/2 punch down the middle and should give the Battalion enough to crack the playoffs.

9. Sudbury Wolves
Probably not the prediction Wolves fans wanted to see from this article, but here's my thinking. This is a team that gave up 265 goals last year which was among the league's worst. And quite frankly, I think the defense is worse this year. Gone are veterans Patrick Sanvido, Aiden Jamieson, Kyle Capobianco and youngster Owen Lalonde. Jacob McGrath and Marshall Frappier are two quality young goaltenders who will be quality players in this league, but I'm just not sure they're good enough to prevent a puck turnstile in Sudbury's net. In order for this team to make the playoffs, they will need a potentially solid offense to really step up. Dmitri Sokolov should be in store for another excellent season. And Macauley Carson is a solid contributor. But the team needs former high picks David Levin and Michael Pezzetta to step up and become consistent offensive stars to give Sudbury a two line attack. I'm just not sure that I'm a believer. Tough times in store for Sudbury fans this year I think.

10. Barrie Colts
No doubt, this Colts team should be better this season. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised at all if this team was in the top 6 of the Conference. But, as mentioned earlier, I think it's also important to note that the Eastern Conference has improved as a whole. Let's talk about an explosive offense first. Andrei Svechnikov. Alexei Lipanov. Ryan Suzuki. Kiril Nizhnikov. Those are some pretty damn good players. Even if they don't win games, this Colts team will be infinitely more entertaining to watch this year. The Leo Lazerev acquisition was a smart one too as it gives Christian Propp a great mentor to take some pressure off of him. Defensively though, this team will not be strong and neither Lazerev nor Propp are good enough to overcome that, at least IMO. Quite frankly, as much as fans probably wouldn't want to admit it, finishing near the bottom of the league again would be best for this franchise. Lipanov and Svechnikov are likely gone next year (Lipanov can play in the AHL early), which means that another top 3 pick would really help this team in their rebuilding efforts. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sunday Top 10 - Performers of the 2017 Preseason

The 2017 preseason is over and the regular season is just around the corner. It's time to take a look at some of the top performances of this year's exhibition action.

As always, this list is populated by players without NHL affiliations (first or second year players, and undrafted veterans), because they get into more games.

Here were the preseason standings (ignoring divisions):

Eastern Conference
1. Kingston Frontenacs (2-0-1) - .833%
2. Hamilton Bulldogs (3-1) - .750%
3. Mississauga Steelheads (2-0-2) - .750%
4. Sudbury Wolves (2-1-1) - .625%
5. Barrie Colts (3-2-1) - .583%
6. North Bay Battalion (3-2-1) - .583%
7. Ottawa 67's (1-1) - .500%
8. Peterborough Petes (2-3-1) - .417%
9. Oshawa Generals (1-2-1) - .375% 
10. Niagara IceDogs (1-3) - .250%

Western Conference
1. Owen Sound Attack (5-0) - 1.00%
2. Windsor Spitfires (4-1) - .800%
3. Saginaw Spirit (2-1-1) - .625%
4. Erie Otters (3-2) - .600%
5. Guelph Storm (3-2) - .600%
6. London Knights (2-2) - .500%
7. Sarnia Sting (2-2) - .500%
8. Kitchener Rangers (2-3-1) - .417% 
9. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (1-3) - .250%
10. Flint Firebirds (1-4) - .200%

Here are your top 10 OHL preseason performers, with several HM's and a team by team breakdown of some other standouts. 

1. Alan Lyszczarzyk - Owen Sound Attack
Quite the Owen Sound debut for the Polish National, after an offseason trade from Sudbury. Lyszczarczyk had a disappointing season with the Wolves last year, but the Attack will be counting on him to be a big contributor as a secondary scoring option behind the big three (Suzuki, Gadjovich, Hancock) this year. Not only did he lead all OHL players in preseason scoring, but he also led in shots on goal (with 24) and in game winning goals (with 2). Lyszczarczyk seems to have developed instant chemistry with Matthew Struthers and Chase Campbell to form a terrific 2nd/3rd line.

2. Jordan Ernst - Sarnia Sting
The former transfer from Bowling Green and overager is going to be counted on hugely in Sarnia this year, to lead an inexperienced blueline. He had a decent rookie season, but will need to be even better this year. If his play this preseason is any indication, he should be in for a big year. Ernst finished the preseason with 5 goals in 4 games, finished 2nd among all players with 23 shots on goal and was a +5. This year's Ryan Mantha?

*EDIT - It appears that Ernst was being used as a forward this preseason. This is interesting considering how inexperienced Sarnia's blueline already is. Given this information, I'd likely move Ernst down several spots on this list, but he had a strong preseason none the less.

3. Ethan Szypula - Owen Sound Attack
Not easy to go perfect in the OHL preseason because of how many players you lose to NHL camps, but the Owen Sound Attack did just that and that's why they have 3 players on this list. The most promising part about Szypula's production this preseason? The fact that he did it while playing on a different line than Lyszczarczyk. Syzpula's 9 points in 3 games (three, three point games) came while playing with Aidan Dudas and Maksim Sushko. So the Attack have positioned themselves nicely to have three terrific scoring lines heading into the season and beyond.

4. Lucas Chiodo - Barrie Colts
Easy to get lost in the shuffle when your team has brought in a potential top 3 pick in the next NHL draft (Svechnikov), a recent 3rd round NHL pick (Lipanov), and the most recent 1st overall OHL pick (Suzuki) this past summer. But returning player Lucas Chiodo rose to the occasion and made sure people didn't forget that he's the highest scoring returning player from last year's squad. Chiodo tied with Lyszczarzcyk and Syzpula for first in preseason scoring with 9 points, also contributing two game winning goals. The winger will likely line up with one of Suzuki or Lipanov down the middle and his performance is vital to getting Barrie back to the playoffs this year.

5. Matt Woroniuk - North Bay Battalion
Things weren't so rosy in the puck stopping department last year for the Battalion. Veteran Brent Moran battled some injuries and struggled when he did play. Rookies Julien Sime and Matt Woroniuk also saw time and weren't fantastic. In order for North Bay to get back to the playoffs this year, they're going to need to do a better job keeping the puck out. This preseason, Woroniuk did just that. He was a workhorse, stopping 104 of 113 shots over four games, winning two of them. On paper, the tandem of Sime and Woroniuk seems scary, but the preseason indicates that maybe North Bay may just be alright heading into the year.

6. Pavel Gogolev - Peterborough Petes
The 8th overall pick in the 2016 OHL Draft struggled last year, posting only 5 goals in a depth role for the Petes. But if the preseason is any indication (it usually is for NHL draft eligible players), he's really improved and could be a breakout candidate. Gogolev posted 4 goals and 4 assists in 6 games, leading the Petes in exhibition scoring. This is a deep Peterborough team up front, but it looks like Gogolev is ready for an increased role.

7. Ryan Merkley - Guelph Storm
There are a lot of eyes on Merkley heading into the 2017 season. After a solid (although inconsistent) rookie year and a good performance at the Hlinka, the former first overall pick has positioned himself as a potential lottery selection at this year's NHL draft. Scouts will be out to watch him (and the Storm) in full force this season. Merkley had a terrific preseason with 2 goals and 4 assists in 4 games, including a 4 point exhibition finale. Upping his intensity in the defensive end and cutting down on sloppy penalties will be just as crucial as his offensive production though. 

8. Andrei Svechnikov - Barrie Colts
Pretty impressive debut for the Russian winger and reigning USHL rookie of the year. The potential top 3 selection at this year's NHL draft came as advertised, posting 4 goals in 5 games, and from the reports I've read and been told, he probably could have had 4 more. The explosive offensive winger is going to be a treat to watch in the league this year.

9. Sean Durzi - Owen Sound Attack
With the graduation of former captain Santino Centorame, someone will need to step up in Owen Sound, eating his minutes and replacing his offensive production from the back end. The leading candidate for that was veteran Sean Durzi and his preseason performance would indicate that he's ready for that. Durzi had 8 points in 3 games for the undefeated Attack, with four of those points coming with the man advantage. Durzi broke out in a big way last year, more than doubling his offensive production from the year before (16 to 38 points). He could be in for another jump this year as part of a dynamic offense.

10. Troy Timpano - Erie Otters
The defending OHL Champions are definitely a different looking team this year, with many of last year's players graduating to the pro level. With so many players in new roles, Erie is going to need strong goaltending to stay afloat and veteran Troy Timpano is that man. He had a solid preseason, winning 2 of the 3 games he played in, posting a .926 save percentage. 

Honorable Mentions

Luke Burghardt - North Bay Battalion
Another face on a new team making an impression, after coming over from Guelph. With some upgrades to skating and puck skill, and added strength, it was only a matter of time before he started scoring more consistently. Burghardt had 4 goals in 5 games for the Battalion, who will be desperate for some additional scoring help this year.

Giovanni Vallati - Kitchener Rangers
Solid preseason offensively for the hyped 2018 NHL Draft prospect. Vallati didn't have a great summer (being cut from the Hlinka team), but 7 assists in 5 preseason games is a good way to start the year for him. Could have a huge year for a solid Rangers team.

Morgan Frost - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
5 goals in 4 games for the Flyers first rounder. Frost will be the top line center for one of the OHL's elite teams this year. An 80+ point season is definitely likely IMO. Hopefully it's with better team results than we saw in the preseason though (however, important to note that the Greyhounds were among the OHL's leaders in players attending NHL camps).

Igor Larionov - Windsor Spitfires
The son of former Red Wing great, Igor Larionov, junior is a transfer from the QMJHL where he played with Quebec last year. Not a ton was expected from him as an FA invite, but he was terrific in the preseason with 5 points in 5 games for the 4 win Spitfires (a great result for them in what should be a rebuilding year).

Kyle Rhodes - Sudbury Wolves
Another cast off from the Guelph Storm, Rhodes was fantastic for the Sudbury Wolves in the preseason with 3 goals and 3 assists and a +4 rating. Sudbury is desperate for someone on their blueline to step up as a prominent player and if the OA can do that, it would really help Sudbury to have a good year.

Jacob Ingham - Mississauga Steelheads
Par for the course for this talented youngster after a tremendous rookie season where he bailed out the Steelheads while Matt Mancina was struggling through the first half of 2016/17. It's his team now and he looks ready for the starting gig, stopping 62 of 66 in preseason action. Going to be a good year for this 2018 NHL pick.

Team by Team Breakdowns

Barrie Colts
Ryan Suzuki (1 goal, 5 assists)
Kirill Nizhnikov (1 goal, 2 assists - in two games)

Erie Otters
Patrick Fellows (4 goals, 1 assist)
Chad Yetman (1 goal, 3 assists)

Flint Firebirds
Ethan Keppen (3 goals, 2 assists)
Hunter Holmes (2 goals, 3 assists)

Guelph Storm
Garrett McFadden (1 goal, 5 assists)
Barret Kirwin (5 goals)
Isaac Ratcliffe (2 goals, 3 assists) 
Anthony Popovich (.914 SV%, 2 wins)

Hamilton Bulldogs
Ben Garagan (1 goal, 4 assists)
Arthur Kaliyev (2 goals)

Kingston Frontenacs
Jason Robertson (2 goals, 1 assist)
Cody Morgan (2 goals, 1 assist)

Kitchener Rangers
Joseph Garreffa (1 goal, 6 assists)
Riley Damiani (4 goals)

London Knights
Liam Foudy (2 goals, 2 assists)
Evan Bouchard (3 goals)
Tyler Johnson (57 of 60 saves)

Mississauga Steelheads
Owen Tippett (3 goals, 1 assist)
Thomas Marley (3 assists)

Niagara IceDogs
Ondrej Machala (3 goals, 2 assists)
Johnathon Schaefer (4 assists)

North Bay Battalion
Brad Chenier (1 goal, 4 assists)
Daniel Walker (3 goals, 1 assist)

Oshawa Generals
Renars Krastenbergs (3 goals, 1 assist)
Allan McShane (1 goal, 2 assists)

Ottawa 67's
Graeme Clark (2 goals)

Owen Sound Attack
Chase Campbell (2 goals, 3 assists)
Mitchell Russell (3 goals, 1 assist)
Matthew Struthers (3 goals, 1 assist)

Peterborough Petes
Adam Timleck (4 goals, 2 assists)
Cameron Supryka (1 goal, 2 assists)

Saginaw Spirit
DJ Busdeker (2 goals, 2 assists)
Nicholas Porco (2 goals, 1 assist)

Sarnia Sting
Drake Rymsha (3 goals, 3 assists)
Hugo Leufvenius (2 goals, 3 assists)

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Zack Trott (3 goals, 1 assist)
Keeghan Howdeshell (2 goals, 2 assists)

Sudbury Wolves
David Levin (2 goals, 3 assists - in one game)
Dawson Baker (3 goals, 1 assist)

Windsor Spitfires
Aaron Luchuk (3 goals, 1 assist)
Matthew MacDougall (3 goals)
Brock Baier (.926 SV%, 2 wins)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Sunday Top 10 - Unheralded Rookies Who Could Make an Impact in 2017-18

I know it's not Sunday, but with the long weekend approaching and the OHL preseason nearing, I felt it necessary to get this one out there. I mention this every time that I write this piece, but it truly is one of my favourites to write and look back on. This annual article looks at some of the rookies who could make an impact in the OHL next year. And by that I mean players not selected in the Import Draft or the recent priority draft (or new midget draft for that matter). I'm talking about 2000 (possibly even '99 or '98) born players who should finally crack their respective teams this year. The list of successful players of this ilk is long (see Mark Scheifele, Remi Elie, Matt Clark, Trevor Carrick, Travis Dermott, Zach Senyshyn, Nic Hague, Boris Katchouk, Alex Formenton, etc).

In addition to my write ups, I've also included brief scouting reports from guys who see the Tier 2 ranks often. Have one scout who wishes to remain anonymous. For some players, who I was unable to "wrangle" up fresh scouting reports on, I've gone back to TheScout's priority selection guide and picked out a few tidbits from that. 

Thanks to the following (and give them a follow on twitter)

Andrew Sykes (@ASykes_hockey)  
Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisNHL) 
Conor Mulligan (@ConorMulliganFC)
Zack Schipper (@ZackShipper)
Andrew Weiss (@WeissFC)
Jamie Neugebauer (@Neugsie)
Here's the list (sorted by position and alphabetical order): 


Marshall Frappier - Sudbury Wolves
A 6th rounder in 2017 (as a re-entry), Frappier is coming off an excellent season in the CCHL. He started for Nepean and was named the goaltender on the CCHL All Rookie Team. He also played for Canada White at the Under 17's, where his numbers were better than Olivier Rodrigue (who just backstopped Canada to Gold at the Hlinka). Look for Frappier to win the back-up job behind Jacob McGrath this year and give the Wolves a solid one-two punch.
Scouting Report: Conor Mulligan says, "Frappier was one of only 6 goalies to represent Canada at the World U-17 Hockey Challenge where he posted a very respectable 2.83 GAA and a .900 Save %. Last season as a 16 year-old he played 37 games and had very similar numbers to former Nepean Raider goalie Daniel Altshuller at the same age. His pure athleticism, quick feet, and ability to stop the puck will overcome any concern about his size. Next season he will likely be the back-up for the Sudbury Wolves but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get into 20-25 games."

Hunter Jones - Peterborough Petes
Big goaltender who is expected to be the back-up to Dylan Wells this year for the Petes (although if Wells plays like he did this past year, he won't be needed much). Jones is coming off an excellent year in the OJHL with Stouffville where he was named to the Second All-Prospect Team. He also suited up for the Silver Medal winning Canada Black at the U17's, serving as Jacob Ingham's back-up.
Scouting Report: Steven Ellis says, "Jones had a tough task of being thrust into a decent amount of games as a 16-year-old, something we’d seen out of goalies like Ben Blacker, Michael Giugovaz and Jake McGrath in recent years. Acting as a backup goalie to league veteran Aaron Taylor, Jones put up respectable numbers for the second place North Division squad. As a late-born 2000 goaltender, Jones will have to wait until the 2019 draft to hear his name called at the NHL Draft, giving him a chance to take over the starting role in Peterborough in 2018-2019. However, unless he gets at least 25 starts in his OHL rookie season this year, you have to wonder if it really makes sense taking the jump right away instead of letting him get the bulk of the starting time in the OJHL. He’d be one of the best goalies in the Northeast this season if he did, especially with Taylor gone in Stouffville, but it’s hard to doubt that he has the ability to play in the OHL." Meanwhile Jamie Neugebauer says, "Jones is buried behind some fantastic goaltending in Peterborough right now, but as a 16-year-old goalie, all he could have asked for last year was a chance to play at the junior level – and he got it, at least a little bit. Unlike the other goaltenders on this list, Jones has great size, and his pedigree already includes Hockey Canada camps, an appearance at the World U-17 Hockey Challenge, and a backup spot at the 2016 World Junior A Challenge (though he did not appear). Jones has all sorts of puck stopping ability, and has major junior goaltender written all over him in that he has calmness and composure in spades, to go along with that 6-foot-3 frame. Current Petes backup Scott Smith is an over-ager, so it shouldn’t surprise if Jones ends up learning from Oilers’ prospect Dylan Wells as his understudy come Day 1 of the OHL season."

Ben Kraws - Niagara IceDogs
Highly touted goaltender who looks like he will be taking the OHL route instead of going to Miami (Ohio) University as he announced at the end of July. Listed on the IceDogs training camp roster, my understanding is that he will be attending. Kraws was one of the U.S.' goaltenders at the recent Hlinka tournament and was also recently named to the All American Prospects Game. Have to believe that if he comes, he'd easily supplant his competition to be Stephen Dhillon's back-up this year, reducing his workload a bit.
Scouting Report: Hard to find someone who has seen enough of Kraws to give a confident scouting report on Kraws. So he'll be the only one who gets a blank here. My apologies. 

Nathan Torchia - Oshawa Generals 
Not a huge goaltender, but Torchia was the 3rd goaltender taken in the 2016 Priority Draft and touted as the netminder of the future for the Generals. He played in the OJHL last year for Orangeville, posting modest numbers for a weak team that missed the playoffs. He'll come to camp in Oshawa and have to battle for a roster spot as the Generals do have a lot of depth at the position. Someone has to back-up Kyle Keyser though.
Scouting Report: Jamie Neugebauer says, "The son of long-time North American minor pro and European league goaltender Mike Torchia, Nathan potentially enters a very murky goaltender situation behind incumbent Kyle Keyser in the Oshawa net. Certainly, he is undersized by today’s standards (he stands around 5’10” and maybe 165 pounds), but he possesses loads of athleticism, and a strong desire to battle for every save. An off-season move to the resurging Stouffville Spirit at the Junior ‘A’ level should give him all sorts of playing time if the Generals elect not to go with him at the backup spot."


Ryan Bangs - London Knights
Undersized defender and former 3rd rounder by the Knights, Bangs will be battling it out with a group of other talented young defenders for a roster spot this year. It's likely that London will be giving ice time on the 3rd pairing to one of those young defenders, especially if Juolevi sticks in the NHL. Bangs is coming off winning a CCHL championship with Carleton Place and was a point per game player in the CCHL2 with Arnprior (a new league that gave us Oliver Castleman last year). 
Scouting Report: Conor Mulligan says, "Bangs started the season with the Carleton Place Canadians but was reassigned to the Arnprior Packers early in the season to help further his development. It ultimately was a smart decision for him because he excelled with the Packers and was one of the premier offensive defenseman in the league. After watching Bangs the last two seasons, he is one of the best pure offensive talents I have seen. The undersized defenseman can make a great breakout pass, handles the puck effortlessly, and is capable of quarterbacking a powerplay. If he can improve defensively he has the potential to be a top pairing defenseman in the OHL but next season I expect him to start in the bottom-pairing while receiving powerplay time."

Luke Beamish - Owen Sound Attack 
Beamish is a former 3rd rounder who saw limited action with the Attack already last year. However, most of the year was spent with Georgetown of the OJHL, where he helped them win an OJHL Championship. He likely slots in on the Attack's 3rd pairing this year and could be one to watch. 
Scouting Report: Jamie Neugebauer says, "The smooth-skating and incredibly intelligent Beamish was outstanding for the OJHL Champion Georgetown Raiders last year. He struggled with a few injuries later in the post-season, but he figured very prominently, and got plenty of ice time as a 16-year-old in a veteran-laden, and loaded Raiders defence-corps. The former Halton Hurricanes minor midget, who steps in under 6-foot, still has to get stronger; but his smarts, and performance last year (which included nine full appearances for the Attack) should mean that he will step in and be a solid OHLer this year from Day 1, on what should be a dynamite Owen Sound club. In this era, his size should not be an issue, and that fact, mixed with his skating ability and lack of fear against bigger, stronger, older competition, means that Beamish looks to be one to absolutely watch at the next level. It doesn’t hurt that he got fantastic coaching from former Sarnia Sting coach Greg Walters in Georgetown."

Hunter Carrick - Windsor Spitfires
The brother of former OHL'er and current NHL'er Connor Carrick, Hunter was recently acquired by Windsor from Ottawa. He played for the great Oakland Jr. Grizzlies program last year and had a very good season as the highest scoring U17 defender in the league (TIEHL U18) by a significant margin and was 6th overall with 19 points. To give you an idea, Steelheads defender Austin Osmanski put up 17 points at the same age, and Firebirds defender Jalen Smereck put up 23. Needless to say, with some departures on the backend, Carrick looks like someone who can play a regular role.
Scouting Report: From a recent article by Jim Parker, GM Warren Rychel describes Carrick as follows: "He’s a good, two-way guy and is improving all the time and he’s been working out all summer with his brother. He’s matured the last year and is a bit of a late bloomer." Meanwhile Carrick describes himself as as "an offensive defenceman that moves the puck well."

Caleb Everett - Saginaw Spirit
Highly competitive, two-way defender who saw limited USHL action this year, instead helping Compuware win the HPHL Championship. He's a former favourite of blog friend and scout Matt Grainda. Looks like Everett will have a chance to make a big impact with the Spirit this year, perhaps even as high as playing on the 2nd pairing, if his play proves worthy.
Scouting Report: Andrew Weiss gives us his report on Everett from this past season: "Arthur Kayliev aside, U16 National Champion Compuware really didn't have a "big name player" that is traditionally seen on U16 National Title teams. That said, Caleb Everett, along with Barrie draft pick Xan Gurney, were outstanding for them and stepped up big to fill a hole left by Jacob Semik leaving early in the season. Needless to say, Compuware doesn't win a national title without him anchoring the blue line. For whatever reason, I don't think Everett has ever received enough credit for how strong of a player he actually is. Put it this way, after the NTDP had taken their player and USHL tenders had been signed I had Everett as a top 10 talent in the USHL Futures Draft for 2000 birth years (he ended up being the 14th player selected). He's always been a strong skating defenseman who had the physical tools that I thought would translate well into playing in the USHL this year. While he only played three games for Muskegon (one was a playoff game), the reports I got was that he looked right at home. I think his offensive game is still developing and not sure he'll ever be considered an offensive defenseman at and level but he'll certainly be a reliable stay-at-home defenseman with a bit of a two-way game that will be a welcome addition to the Saginaw lineup for years to come." Also, here's Grainda's scouting report from our 2016 Priority Selection Primer, "Offense is exciting, but “Defense Wins Championships.” Caleb Everett from Detroit Honeybaked AAA is one of those defenseman that team’s just love to trust. As a mobile player with an effortless 4-way skating stride, Everett does a great job attacking the rush through smart positioning, an active stick and big physical traits. Body contact is no issue at all, as he is able to use his strength and power to properly challenge players. Natural athleticism plays into one of Everett’s primary strengths, as he uses his patience and quickness to make the proper, safe play even with heavy pressure. Good situational awareness via his high hockey intelligence helps him accomplish the smart option in all zones. Everett projects as a “do-it-all” defensive defenseman who could fill many roles. National Hockey League teams love that type of player."

Pierre-Luc Forget - Niagara IceDogs
Offensive blueliner who was a crucial part on a very strong Toronto Marlboros minor midget team two years ago (runners up at the OHL Cup in 2016). Forget is coming off a very strong season with Fort Erie in the GOJHL (staying locally to play close to the Dogs), where he was one of the team's top defenders. Competition for a roster spot on Niagara's blueline is extremely wide open for this coming season and Forget should be right there battling. 
Scouting Report: From an article on the Niagara IceDogs website, "A dynamic defenseman that plays with the style of a forward, Forget is the kind of defenseman that can kill penalties, quarterback a powerplay and control even strength play.  Viewed by many as a potential second round pick, an average showing at the OHL Cup dropped Forget to the 9th round."

Emmett Gordon - Kingston Frontenacs 
Gordon is a good sized defender who already got into 18 games with the Fronts last year. When he wasn't playing for Kingston in the OHL, he was playing for the Voyageurs of the OJHL and played well. Should be a key fixture on the Fronts blueline this year, playing (at the very least), a third pairing role.
Scouting Report: From TheScout, "Well sized defender who holds the offensive line well, while showing abilities of picking up difficult passes on both the fore and back hand. Vocal leader who plays a smart calculated game."

Braden Henderson - Sarnia Sting 
Undersized offensive blueliner who is coming off a fantastic season in the GOJHL with Chatham. He was a point per game player from the back-end and was named the conference's top rookie defender. He got into 6 games with Sarnia this past season, but he should get a much larger role this year, perhaps even as high as the 2nd pairing. 
Scouting Report: Andrew Sykes says, "Henderson was one of those players who was just head and shoulders above most at the Jr. B level from the moment he stepped onto the ice for the Chatham Maroons even as a first-year player. Not literally because he certainly doesn't overwhelm with size and strength, but he is the new-age defenceman who excels through his smarts, poise, skill and mobility. A near flawless skater, his agility achieved in all directions with his head up gives him that elusiveness which an undersized blueliner requires. A highly intelligent player who consistently reads the ice and makes the correct play. Averaged a point-per-game in 39 regular contests with the Maroons. He could play on my OHL team any day and I think he will do well with the Sting this season."

Riley McCourt - Hamilton Bulldogs 
A former 3rd rounder by the Bulldogs, McCourt is a relatively highly touted two-way defender who is coming off a fantastic season in the GOJHL, where he was a standout for St. Catharines (including being a nearly point per game player in the playoffs). He's likely to be a full time Bulldog this year on Hamilton's third pairing.
Scouting Report: From TheScout, "McCourt is a steady offensive defenseman who provides good defensive value as well showing good compete and awareness in all three zones. Possesses above-average feet with the quickness and lateral mobility to escape pressure. His offensive-oriented mindset can get him into trouble at times in the defensive zone because he does get caught thinking too far ahead of his responsibilities. His ability to maintain strong positioning helps with his defensive responsibilities both on the rush and deep in the defensive zone on zone cycles."

Zack Pilon - Flint Firebirds

Another player who suited up in the relatively new CCHL2 league this past season, with Pilon playing for Athens. A good sized defender (6'3), Pilon projects as a solid stay at home type and the former 4th rounder will likely be a third pairing defender for the Firebirds this coming season.
Scouting Report: From an article on the OHL's main site about Pilon committing, GM Barclay Branch says, “Zack is a high-ceiling type of player that every team looks for when building their defense core. He’s a big, right-shot defenseman who has a very good understanding and feel for the game. Zack is a player that you cannot help but see a significant upside to his future and we’re happy to have him committed to our organization.”

Merrick Rippon - Mississauga Steelheads
Big time defensive prospect who is coming of an excellent season in the CCHL and is projected as a top two round selection in the 2018 NHL Draft. Rippon was originally a high pick of the Kitchener Rangers but recently had his rights dealt to Mississauga, where he will be looked upon to be a top 4 defender. Rippon was the CCHL Rookie of the Year last year with the Ottawa Jr. Senators and should be an impact player as early as this season. 
Scouting Report: Conor Mulligan says, "Merrick was the CCHL Rookie of the Year last season and was a key contributor in the Junior Senators success last season. At the Under-18 Selection Camp this past summer I thought he struggled at times but that’s to be expected and there will be an adjustment period for Rippon as he makes the jump to the OHL. There’s a lot to like about Rippon’s game as he always seem to make the smart and simple play. He can play in any situation whether it’s on the powerplay or the penalty kill and is player you put on the ice when you need a goal or are defending a lead."


Dawson Baker - Sudbury Wolves 
Highly intense, throwback type of physical winger who was a 4th rounder of Sudbury and is coming off an excellent season with Trenton in the OJHL. He also suited up for Canada Black at the World Under 17's. After getting into 10 games with Sudbury last year, he'll have a chance to compete for more ice time this year. Baker will battle the likes of fellow younger players like Owen Lane and Shane Bulitka for a place on the 3rd line.
Scouting Report: Jamie Neugebauer says, "In an Ontario where the GTHL gets so much press, how impressive is the list of excellent alumni coming out of the eastern powerhouse known as the Quinte Red Devils minor midgets? Baker is another in that tradition, possessing straight-line speed and tenacity that is extremely reminiscent of former OJHLer, and Colorado Avalanche second rounder Cam Morrison. Baker isn’t as big as Morrison yet, but the fact that the right-winger featured at Hockey Canada’s Under-17 World Hockey Challenge this past season firmly demonstrates what the wider hockey community thought of his rookie season with the powerhouse Trenton Golden Hawks. Baker didn’t put up eye-popping numbers for the Hawks last year, but considering he was playing on an extremely veteran team, one that averaged the full-allowed compliment of 10 20 year-olds-per game, what he was able to do in his minutes was more than impressive enough to earn 10 call-ups from the Sudbury Wolves. Of all the forwards on this list, Baker is by far the most likely to open Day 1 of the OHL regular season. He isn’t a player interested in dangling around everyone, preferring to use his speed to blow up and down the wing, and create off the fore-check."

Sam Bitten - Ottawa 67's 
Brother of Hamilton Bulldogs forward Will Bitten, Sam was a 5th round pick of the 67's and finished out the year with the team last year. But he played the majority of the year with Kanata of the CCHL and was a member of the All Rookie team. Heading into 2017/18, Bitten will battle with a whole whack of other talented young forwards (just look at the number on this list) for a spot on the 3rd/4th line. 
Scouting Report: Conor Mulligan says, "Bitten is the younger brother of Hamilton Bulldogs forward Will Bitten. Bitten spent last season with the Kanata Lasers but was an affiliate with the 67’s where he managed to suit up for 14 regular season games. Sam is a highly skilled forward who sees the ice extremely well and possesses exceptional puck handling and passing skills. His best asset is his skating as his feet seem to never stop moving. He gets up the ice quickly and is difficult to contain once he receives the puck in stride. His speed makes him a threat every shift and opponents need to take notice when he’s on the ice. I personally don’t have high expectations for him next season as I think there will be some initial struggles but he has the potential to be a very good OHL player one day."

Tyler Davis - Owen Sound Attack
While it's not confirmed as to whether Davis is in the Attack's plans for this upcoming season, he did attend rookie camp last year after being a 15th round selection. Certainly a good sign. Davis is coming off an excellent year with Aurora of the OJHL (who were admittedly one of the worst teams in the league). But you can't ignore the 31 points in 48 games to go with 144 penalty minutes. That's excellent production for a 16/17 year old in Junior A. With the way the Attack like to play, Davis could be a candidate for a 4th line role this year.
Scouting Report: Jamie Neugebauer says, "Davis impressed and improved a ton as a 16-year-old over the course of a tumultuous season in Aurora last season. He is plucky and plays a truly ‘in-your-face’ style, and so the Owen Sound Attack product looks to have real potential as an energy player at the next level. He’ll need to add discipline to his game, to reign in that pugnacity just a touch, but he has a solid frame, and has a touch of offensive upside as well as long as he keeps things simple."

Chad Denault - Peterborough Petes 
A 3rd rounder by the Petes, Denault had the highest point per game average of any U17 player in the NOJHL last year, where he played for Rayside-Balfour. The 6'2 winger looks to be a solid bet to be a 3rd or 4th liner for Peterborough this year after getting in only 6 games last year.
Scouting Report: Director of Scouting and Head Scout for Rayside-Balfour, Zack Shipper, took the time to give us his scouting report on Denault. "Chad is a player I’ve had the privilege of following since his Minor Midget year with the Sudbury Wolves. His game continues to grow with each passing day, and the future appears to be quite bright for this Peterborough Pete. Chad is a big, strong power forward type player who has a high level of offensive skill, but also the hockey IQ and smarts to give you solid play in the defensive and neutral zones. He is highly intelligent, a fierce competitor and has a nose for finding the back of the net. He finished 3rd in NOJHL scoring for 2000 aged players with 36 points (19-17-36) in 46 games and was easily one of Rayside Balfour’s most consistent players. Chad was quickly able to establish himself as a Top 6 forward in the NOJHL. While playing in Rayside this past season, Chad was able to improve upon his skating speed and strength; two qualities that will help him succeed in the OHL. He possesses a long and powerful stride which allows him to play with impressive pace. He got a taste for the OHL last season so he should be able to easily adjust to the speed of the OHL. Chad is a player who will not cheat you on effort and will bring 120% to the rink each and every day. He battles and competes hard and could become a fan favourite in Peterborough. Chad has a pro upside shot that he utilizes to score from different areas on the ice. He can snap a shot home from the top of the circle, or battle in front and jam home a dirty one. Chad does a good job protecting the puck on the rush and can create problems for opponents by using his size and soft hands. He is a team player and does not rely on 1 on 1 offence. Chad projects as a solid two-way forward who may also be able to surprise some with his offensive output in his rookie season; depending on the role he plays. It would not shock me to see Chad in the Petes Top 6 regularly at some point this year. His 6’2, 180 pound power forward frame paired with his improved speed, high end offensive ability and elite hockey IQ could make Chad Denault one of the more intriguing rookie forwards heading into this OHL season."

Bobby Dow - Peterborough Petes
One of the more interesting signings this offseason from an OHL perspective. Dow, a '98, was originally a 10th rounder by the Petes but had committed to Mercyhurst. He was slated to be a late round pick at the 2017 NHL Draft (rated by most publications in the mid to late 100's), but the November birth date forward was passed over in his first year of eligibility. After a great year with Kemptville of the CCHL (he was a second team all star), Dow de-committed and signed with Peterborough. Have to think he has a chance to be a top 9 player for the Petes this year, giving them an even deeper line-up.
Scouting Report: Conor Mulligan says, "Dow was one of the top forwards in the CCHL last season and was an integral part of the Kemptville 73’s postseason run where he lead the team in playoff scoring. He is a high energy forward who possesses an above average skillset. It seemed like last season he received the majority of his scoring opportunities on the powerplay or using his speed effectively to create odd-man rushes. Because Dow is a right shot playing on the left wing, he will sometimes struggle to get the puck out of the defensive zone when the opposing forwards have an aggressive forecheck. Next season with the Petes I would expect him to play in the middle-6 while receiving some powerplay time."

Daylon Groulx - Owen Sound Attack 
A 4th rounder by the Attack, Groulx spent this past season with Fort Erie of the GOJHL where he had the highest point per game average of any U17 player in the league (1.43). Daylon is the son of former OHL scoring star Wayne Groulx. He did manage to get in 9 games with the Attack last year but should see regular time this year. 
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "A supportive winger with good offensive instincts and the skill to execute advanced offensive attacks. Crashes the net hard on offensive rushes using all his efforts to redirect pucks thrown into the slot. Decent skating ability but lacks overwhelming speed on the rush and through the neutral zone. What he lacks in explosiveness and top end speed, he makes up for with impressive agility to elude pressure and extend possession time. Works high in the offensive zone doing a good job of shutting down the boards as a breakout option and exhibits strong back checking responsibility. Displays good versatility and is capable of slotting into the centre position showing good impact and two-way awareness, including strong faceoff prowess." 

Cam Hillis - Guelph Storm
Huge get for the Storm after Hillis signed recently. With a solid 2017 Priority selection, the addition of Alexei Toropchenko, and now Hillis, the Storm lineup is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with. Hillis was considered one of the best 2000 born Ontario players not playing in the OHL last year after committing to St. Andrew's College and likely an NCAA school after that. But he signed and should slot into Guelph's top 9 next year, perhaps even as a top 6 player. Hillis was the second highest scoring player in CAHS last year and also suited up for Canada Red at the U17's. Massive add for Guelph and the league.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Cameron Hillis is a skilled forward with soft hands and excellent hockey sense. He is an offensive catalyst every time he is on the ice. Crisp accurate passer who always finds a seam to thread the puck through.  Although Hillis is a top notch playmaker he also uses his shot with regularity making him a double threat and hard to read on what he might do, shoot or pass. Utilizes great vision, shrewd awareness and outstanding anticipation to read the opposition and exploit their weakness. Propels to top speed smoothly using a wide, lowered skating base where he generates power through use of total leg range of motion. Defensive zone play is inconsistent and will need seasoning but shows a healthy compete tracking back to provide valuable back pressure. As a smaller skilled forward, Hillis recognizes that adding strength to his overall game will help him compete in smaller areas of the ice."

Mitchell Hoelscher - Ottawa 67's
A 3rd rounder by the 67's, Hoelscher was a standout for Elmira Sugar Kings last year on their way to a GOJHL Championship. He was a second team all star and looks like the type of player who could make an impact for the 67's in a depth role next year. But, as mentioned, the competition for those spots will be fierce. 
Scouting Report: An anonymous scout who sees a lot of the GOJHL's Midwest says, "Lucky enough to spend his year in Elmira alongside two of the top scorers in the GOJHL, Hoelscher proved an ability to elevate his game when playing with other skilled players. He’ll need to continue to add mass and strength to his frame, but shows strong puck skills in tight places. Will surprise goalies with an added oomph in his shot to find holes. His always-on motor combined with intelligent reads of the game enshrine him to coaches to use in various roles. Along with his six games as a call up last year, Hoelscher should be prepared to play in the middle six of Ottawa’s lineup in 17-18." 

Keegan Howdeshell - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Former member of the U.S. National Development Program (U17 and U18) gave up his scholarship to Ferris State to sign with Hounds recently. The '98 born, 6'0 forward played last year for Muskegon of the USHL, posting 24 points in 49 games. The former 10th rounder by SSM will fight it out for a 3rd/4th line spot this year and could be an impact overager in two seasons.
Scouting Report: Waiting on an updated scouting report on Howdeshelll, but in the mean time, here's what the Greyhounds and Howdeshell (himself) are saying. In an article on, GM Kyle Raftis says, "Keeghan possesses great speed and strength which allows him to be a dynamic two-way player who will compliment our group of forwards nicely." And in an article by Peter Ruicci for the Sault Star, Howdeshell calls himself "pretty fast when I get going and I also have pretty-good hands. I think I’m a smart player, I see the ice pretty well and I’m more of a passer, a play-maker, than a scorer.”

Blade Jenkins - Saginaw Spirit
It was great to see the Spirit get a commitment from Jenkins this summer (giving up his scholarship to the University of Michigan), their former 4th overall selection in the 2016 Priority Draft. He played last year for the U.S. Development Program (U17), but struggled and was ultimately a role player for the team. He was also a member of the U.S.' Hlinka team this summer, but struggled at that event too. Needless to say, it's tough to put unfair expectations on Jenkins and what he'll be able to do in his rookie season. But he is a former highly touted prospect and a massive addition for Saginaw. 
Scouting Report: Andrew Weiss says, "Heading into the Priority Selection, most saw a move to Saginaw as the inevitable for Jenkins but little thought it would happen after one season. After a rocky first season with the NTDP, it was easy to see why the move was made this season. Jenkins fell victim to the great depth that the 2000 NTDP forwards which I think was a direct result of his skating holding him back. I don't think there's a scout in the US that will question his offensive abilities and his ability to think the game. For that reason and the thought that he'll be a top six forward with Saginaw, I think he'll have a pretty decent year contribution wise. I didn't get the chance to see him during the Hlinka but heard he looked like the same player he was last year. Although he wasn't named to the All-American Prospects Game I'm hopeful if there's an injury replacement he finds his way into the game next month. He's certainly going to be under the microscope a lot this year given that many saw him with the likes of Oliver Wahlstrom, Bode Wilde, etc. as elite 2000 birth year talents before last year's rocky season. Was last year just a result of a bad fit? I'm going to try and reserve my opinion until seeing what he can do with the Spirit this season."

Danny Katic - Saginaw Spirit 
Katic is a big winger who tore apart the GOJHL last year with Fort Erie (49 point in 44 games), earning a look from the Spirit late in the year. The 6'3 forward has a chance to be a top 9 forward in Saginaw this year and could be a wild card for the 2018 NHL Draft.
Scouting Report: An anonymous scout who sees a lot of the GOJHL says, "Having spent his draft year playing Midget hockey with those older and younger, Katic played a role behind some older players at the time. His move to the GOJHL’s Fort Erie allowed him to blossom as a go-to player, leading Fort Erie in scoring. Blessed with a long frame, Katic is a true 200-ft hockey player, who impacts the defensive side of the game from the wing. Likely to show well in possession metrics, Katic has a knack for causing neutral zone turnovers. Utilizes a long stride with good straight line speed to get up the ice quickly, Katic makes small but smart plays with the puck as a distributor. Will endear himself to coaches quickly as a Swiss-Army knife type of player."

Matthew MacDougall - Windsor Spitfires
A 3rd rounder by Barrie, MacDougall had his rights acquired by Windsor recently and has given them a commitment. He spent last year with St. Andrew's College where he helped them win a CISAA Championship. MacDougall will battle it out with a few others for playing time on the 3rd and 4th line in Windsor, with a chance to move up if they start rebuilding.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "A heart-and-soul attacker with excellent understanding of the game on both sides of the puck. His top end speed eats up neutral zone ice well allowing him to intelligently gain zone entry eventually setting up offensive zone possession time. His top end speed eats up neutral zone ice well allowing him to intelligently gain zone entry eventually setting up offensive zone possession time. Overall, MacDougall's competitiveness and high energy compliment his smarts and skill very well making him an easy-to-project two-way forward."  

Thomas Maia - Mississauga Steelheads
Late round pick out of the Mississauga Rebels program who had an excellent season with Milton of the OJHL last year, putting up 35 points in 53 games. The undersized forward definitely has a chance to compete for a roster spot with the Steelheads this year, given the relatively wide open competition for a spot on the team's 4th line.
Scouting Report: Jamie Neugebauer says, "The second true bright spot on the Icehawks last year was Steelheads’ prospect Thomas Maia. Oakville’s brain trust wanted a team with all sorts of speed, and so going out and getting the 2000-born Brampton native (in a recent trade) made all sorts of sense. Maia uses his foot speed well, preferring straight lines towards the net, despite his lack of imposing size, and that factor will crucially aid him on the big ice surface that he’ll play on half the time. By all accounts he will spend another year at Junior A, like his teammate Paul on a club with higher expectations, so his development is in great hands. It’s worth repeating: you can’t afford to ignore his type of speed, Maia can fly."

Ethan Manderville - Ottawa 67's 
Not listed on the 67's training camp roster for this year so it looks like he'll be going the NCAA route. But if he has a chance of heart at some point, he has a chance to be an impact OHL'er down the line. Manderville played for Kanata of the CCHL last year, one year removed from an injury plagued Minor Midget year that saw him fall to 7th round of the OHL draft. Future Considerations has him ranked 78th on their preliminary 2018 NHL Draft rankings.
Scouting Report: Conor Mulligan says, "Manderville was considered a top OHL Draft prospect during his draft year but fell to the 7th round after playing only 9 games due to injuries. Ethan is a smart 6’-3’’ forward who uses his size effectively to generate offense and win puck battles along the boards. As a 16 year-old last season Manderville really impressed me with his play away from the puck and his ability to kill penalties. I wouldn’t expect him to produce a lot of points next season in the OHL but I would expect him to play a strong two-game and work his way through the line-up to the point where he’s capable of playing a regular shift and contribute on the penalty kill."

Billy Moskal - London Knights
Moskal has a chance to be this year's Alex Formenton for the Knights (although it feels like London gets a big contribution from an older rookie every year). The 2nd rounder did suit up in 13 games for London last year, but spent the majority of the season with St. Mary's of the GOJHL. There he was one of the best U17 players in the league and was his Conference's Rookie of the Year. He also suited up for Canada Red at the U17's. Could be an impact player as early as this year IMO.
Scouting Report: Andrew Sykes says, "Awarded as the Rookie of the Year in GOJHL's Western Conference, Moskal was a force in his season with the St. Mary's Lincolns. He is a quick-skating, well-balanced winger who plays with enthusiasm every shift and dominates his side of the ice. It is always hard to predict where guys will slot into the London Knights lineup, but with his ability to control the puck on the wing along with scoring and playmaking attributes, the Sudbury native should make positive contributions. He'll certainly be surrounded by a lot of high-end talent which wasn't always the case in his first junior season and he was still able to score 23 goals and total 52 points in 41 regular season games with the Lincolns."

Justin Paul - Currently a Free Agent
Might be the first time (in many years of this list) that I've put a current OHL free agent in the article. He attended Sarnia's rookie camp as an invite, but was not brought to their main camp. Perhaps Paul wishes to preserve his NCAA eligibility. Paul starred for Milton of the OJHL this past year where he was the highest scoring U17 player in the league (although Jack McBain did have a slightly higher point per game average). Someone bring this guy into the fold!
Scouting Report: Steven Ellis says, "Paul was one of the most explosive rookies in the OJHL this year, leading Milton with 45 points in a year that saw the dismal squad record just four wins in their 50th season. He was a glimmer of hope for the squad, posting four points in the final three games, that saw his team allow 25 goals in that span. For the then 16-year-old to prove that he can put up close to a point-per-game while playing against 20-year-olds on a team that was historically bad showed that he can reach the next level. In fact, playing in the OJHL would slow him down likely as he needs to be give a good foundation to work with and given a chance to shine in a stronger environment. He looked good at Sarnia’s training camp, and he should be able to bring his quick skating and deceptive shot to the major junior ranks effectively as a 17-year-old." Meanwhile Jamie Neugebauer says, "It probably was hard to find a bright side for the four-win Milton Icehawks last year, but the play of the 16-year-old Paul was certainly one of them. A crafty, slippery offensive left winger, Paul led the woeful Hawks in scoring, posting 16 goals, with not a single one coming on the power play. His passing and vision are likely the best translatable parts of his game, but the tremendous amounts of ice time against the other team’s best defenders that he faced every night last season will only have helped his development. By all accounts his tryout with the Sting went well, but he’ll get excellent tutelage from Greg Walters and the Georgetown Raiders, to whom he was traded in the off-season, should things not pan out in Sarnia."

Chris Playfair - Windsor Spitfires
A 4th rounder by the Spitfires, Playfair already got into 13 games for Windsor last year in a depth role. When he wasn't playing for Windsor, he suited up for LaSalle of the GOJHL where he put up 17 points in 30 games. Windsor will be looking for players to step up and earn consistent ice time this year thanks to some graduations and Playfair could certainly be one of those guys.
Scouting Report: Andrew Sykes says, "Playfair will jump into a full-time role after seeing limited time with the Spitfires last season.  With the LaSalle Vipers in the GOJHL, Playfair did not much produce offensively but was not consistently put in situations to do so. While his offensive game grows, the Waterloo native can be counted on to be an effective puck-pursuit winger who gets to pucks quickly through his great speed and length. His checking attributes should begin to be utilized in Windsor this year and I would look for him to make contributions on the penalty kill."

Sam Rhodes - Barrie Colts 
Been a tough summer for the Providence Friars program. They can't be too happy with the OHL after losing Merrick Rippon, Cam Hillis, and Sam Rhodes. But the NCAA's loss is Barrie's gain. An undersized forward, Rhodes played last year with the Skipjacks program in Pennsylvania (which play out of the USPHL, same league Cam Dineen came from a few years ago). His numbers weren't great but it's important to remember that he played on a U18 team. Should give the Colts even more offensive depth as they continue their rebuild.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "A possession skill player who displays good confidence and an impressive knack for converting on net-side opportunities. Despite being undersized, Rhodes displays not hesitations in playing a feisty, aggressive game with loads of offensive jam. Fearless attacker who is always around the puck, impressing with his abilities to operate through intense traffic both creating scoring chances for himself and his teammates. Displays hard-to-contain lateral agility and explodes onto loose pucks creating chances extremely quick. Impressive playmaker in the scoring area, drawing pressure towards himself before hitting linemates in the heart of the scoring area  - a testament to his awareness and feel for the game. Draws a lot of penalties because of his non-stop motor and ability to buzz around in traffic. Explosive from a standstill helps him in short-burst attacks. Pitbull attacker who slips into scoring areas uncontested. As good as his playmaking skills are, he has proved to be a pretty lethal finisher, especially on breakaways and near-crease scoring opportunities. Size will remain a concern with skills but he is deceptively strong on pucks and handles contact fairly well."

Ryan Roth - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 
Free agent signing by the Hounds this summer, Roth looks like the type of player who could make an impact eventually in this league. Played for Honeybaked last year, leading the team in scoring (over relatively highly touted prospect Ryan Savage, who is Brian Savage's son and the same age). Also showed well at the U.S.' U16 camp (which they use to select their Hlinka team...although he wasn't selected for the final roster). Roth should compete for a 3rd/4th line role with the Hounds this year.
Scouting Report: From an article on the OHL's website, GM Kyle Raftis says, "Ryan comes to us as an extremely skilled player who combines his skating ability with his high hockey IQ. This enables him to be in the position that makes himself or his teammates offensively dangerous at all times. In tracking Ryan’s development over the past two years, we are extremely excited to see the steps he has taken to push himself to the next level. We can’t wait to watch him continue to push the boundaries of what it means to be a student athlete for the Greyhounds.”

Thomas Tinmouth - Ottawa 67's 
A top performer for the Toronto Marlboros at the 2016 OHL Cup (where they finished 2nd), Tinmouth was a 4th rounder of the 67's. Last year he played for Stouffville of the OJHL where he put up 28 points in 49 games, solid production for a U17 player. He's yet another forward who will battle for 3rd/4th line ice time on the 67's this year, if he chooses to go the OHL route (he listed as part of Ottawa's training camp).
Scouting Report: Jamie Neugebauer says, "Most players need to get bigger and stronger when moving up levels, and that is certainly true for Tinmouth if he desires to make the jump to Ottawa this year. That being said, the 6-foot, 165-pounder’s on-ice instincts are certainly there. His 15 goals as a 16-year-old with Stouffville were solid, and unlike many minor midgets making the jump to junior hockey, his production didn’t suffer drastically as late-season fatigue set in. The positional, structured game of the next level will be an adjustment to a young man that was used to his fair share of improvisation the last couple of years, but the fact that he got plenty of situational ice time on the Spirit last year should be a big help in his development. He is still eligible for NCAA, so it will be interesting to see whether he wants to go the school route."

Richard Whittaker - London Knights 
Whittaker was a 4th round pick of the Knights after winning an OHL Cup with YSE in 2016. Last year he suited up for the London Nationals of the GOJHL where he put up 30 points in 45 games. He also helped the Nationals reach the finals of the Sutherland Cup (although they did lose to Elmira). Whittaker has a chance to be a 4th liner for the Knights this year and more than that moving forward.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Whittaker creates a ton of offensive chances with his strong carrying ability, astute vision and creative puck handling permitting him to catalyze chances inside the offensive zone. Smart and patient in possession, he owns the skill to out wait pressure holding onto pucks that draw defenders towards him before exploiting the opened up space. Prone to holding onto pucks too long and he occasionally falls into a support role but when he’s in control, he is as effective as many of his skilled teammates. Possesses excellent long-term potential and true offensive top-six upside."

Jack Wismer - Flint Firebirds 
One of the highest drafted players to not play in the OHL last year (41st overall in 2016), Wismer is a great candidate to make an impact as a rookie this year for Flint. It certainly wasn't a slam dunk that he would commit to the Firebirds (after speaking out last year when drafted about their turbulent situation), but he did sign his deal earlier this summer. Wismer missed the majority of last year with an upper body injury, but did serve as a point per game player with Ancaster of the GOJHL in limited action. He likely ends up a top 9 forward for the Firebirds this year.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Brings a solid knowledge of the game and displays a quick hockey processor allowing him to utilize extra time on the attack and identify prime passing lanes. Average-sized winger who offers nice puck-carrying and goal-scoring capacities. Not an overly quick skater but he owns good top speed and noteworthy power and balance. Difficult to knock off of the puck especially below the hash marks where he can utilize strength and protection skills to extend puck time. Most dangerous on the rush, generating speed and powering into the zone with impressive power." Also was a favourite of TheScout's Matt Stewart in our draft primer in 2016, stating, "Sneaky type player who has all the skills necessary to excel at the next level. Can do things at top speed that others cannot. Has a quick shot off the wing and can also find team mates with a deft pass. Cerebral player, can out think opponents."

Quinn Yule - Ottawa 67's 
Massive winger (6'5) who showed well with Newmarket of the OJHL last year, posting 27 points in 46 games. Also got into one game with the 67's. As mentioned, the 67's have a ton of talented forwards competing for spots this year, but Yule certainly has something the majority of them don't; size and physicality. That could give him an advantage to earning a spot and becoming a quality 4th liner for Ottawa.
Scouting Report: Jamie Neugebauer says, "It is cliché because it’s true: you can’t teach size; and Yule has it in spades. At a towering 6-foot-5, Yule took great advantage of playing on a great line for a lot of last year in Newmarket, and half the battle in being as big as him is knowing how to use it. He isn’t yet very strong, but at that size, and possessing of nice soft hands in tight, the 67’s like what they have in him, and if he can fill in physically, he absolutely has the intelligence to do very well at the next level. He already has OHL experience, playing one game with Ottawa last season, and if he can add a physical element to his game, the sky is his limit."