Have I ever mentioned how much I enjoy the city of Chicago? Kuma's Corner; one of the best burgers I've ever had in my life.
1. Alex Debrincat - Erie Otters
I guess it was a good year for Debrincat...leading the league in scoring and winning the Red Tilson Trophy as the league's most outstanding player. Oh...and his team won an OHL Championship. Yeah...I guess a pretty good year. Debrincat has obviously reached a point where he has absolutely nothing left to prove at the OHL level. Over the course of his career, his skating and strength have improved greatly, two things pundits have pointed as being potential downfalls given his lack of stature. Bottom line is this, you can't teach hockey sense and Debrincat has it in spades. Believe me, teams know when this guy is on the ice. Yet, they can't stop him because he's a step ahead of everyone else. Even without Dylan Strome to start the year, and all the reinforcements the Otters brought in for the stretch drive, Debrincat showed an ability to dominate and that's another thing doubters pointed to. So now it will be about proving that his game can translate to the pro level next year. Can he get to those spots the same way? Will he have the time and space to get his great shot off? I think the answer to those questions is yes. In fact, I think Debrincat forces himself on to the Blackhawks roster this year at some point and becomes a permanent fixture in their top 6 by the end of the year.
2. Graham Knott - Windsor Spitfires
Quite frankly, I think the stats were misleading. Certainly not impressive seeing your 20 year old, 6'4 center scoring 15 goals this year. But after that trade from Niagara, any time I saw the Spitfires play, Knott was one of the better players on the ice. He doesn't score because he doesn't shoot. Just over 100 shots this year. His shot is not a weapon. But what Knott does have is physical skill. His skating has improved a ton over the course of his OHL career IMO. He was a very effective player at both ends and he plays the game hard away from the puck. Knott also has really underrated hands as a puck carrier and is capable of making moves in transition that can create space for him to make plays for his linemates. Also continues to show a penchant for driving hard to the net. Knott will turn pro next year and play in the AHL. I actually think he'll find some immediate success at the pro level as his game is very transferable. Could take a bit of time for him to adapt to the speed of the pro game, but I think he'll be a 25 point guy at the very least (maybe 8/17-ish). I could definitely see Knott developing into a quality 3rd/4th line center in time.