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Ones to Watch: An Early Look Towards 2017-18 (Part 2)

Akil Thomas (Terry Wilson OHL Images)The second edition of Ones to Watch heading into the 2017-18 OHL season features three highly sought NHL prospects and two young players poised for stardom. 

View Part 1 Here

Kingston Frontenacs 

 

Jason Robertson (Aaron Bell OHL Images)Jason Robertson

In his second OHL season, Robertson did much more than just “break-out.” The crafty winger reached superstar status in junior hockey with a 42-goal, 81-point campaign which has to have Fronts fans extremely excited to see what he can do for an encore. Finishing as Central Scouting’s 14th ranked North American skater, Robertson brings pretty much everything you want in a winger. With his ability to protect the puck and maintain possession on the cycle, he can dominate at even strength, and then follows up with excellent playmaking vision and natural goal-scoring attributes. There won’t be elite talent around him but there are some players who compliment him well, which should help him match or surpass this year’s production. 

Verdict: Dominant, All-Star winger 

Bold Off-Season Prediction: First-Team All-Star Left-Winger. Makes USA’s World Junior team and performs well. 

 

Kitchener Rangers 

Adam Mascherin (Terry Wilson OHL Images)Adam Mascherin 

Back in his minor midget year, a common question heard around the rinks when talking about Adam Mascherin was “how much taller is he going to get?” While he hasn’t gained much height if any since then, he has remained the same goal-scoring machine with the Kitchener Rangers that he was with the AAA Vaughan Kings. This past season, his third in the OHL, Mascherin equalled his goal output from the previous year with 35 but saw a spike in the assist department, collecting 65 of them en route to a 100-point campaign and a first-team OHL-All-Star selection. A second-round pick of the Florida Panthers in the 2016 Draft, Mascherin is a unique player in terms of the amount of strength he packs into his five-feet and nine-inches. His body and hands are insanely strong making him extremely hard to stop from entering the zone, and then as has been the case since his minor hockey days, he possesses elite shooting attributes. There are a lot of good young players up front for the Rangers and you can bet they are all licking their chops at the possibility of playing with this guy in his final junior season. 

Verdict: MVP-calibre winger 

Bold Off-Season Prediction: Top candidate for the Red Tilson Trophy as the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player and is a member of Team Canada’s World Junior team. 

 

London Knights 

Robert Thomas (Terry Wilson OHL Images)Robert Thomas 

What a rise up the ranks it has been for Thomas. We at TheScout.ca liked him more than most in his OHL Draft year with the York-Simcoe Express, but I don’t know if anyone would have predicted that he would be the 22nd ranked North American Skater for the 2017 NHL Draft. After getting the best seat in the house to watch and learn from the likes of Mitch Marner, Christian Dvorak and Matthew Tkachuk in his rookie season, Thomas certainly made the most of an increased role in his sophomore campaign and was a big reason why the Knights were able to remain one of the top teams in the CHL despite the loss of those three aforementioned stars. Upon watching him, you’ll likely quickly notice that he does everything very well. Smooth and skilled, he is able to think the game at a high-level and be creative at any speed, and fits the mould of everyone’s favourite clichéd description in that he is a 200 ft. player who is heady and competitive all over the ice. The Knights have almost unfair talent returning so you’d be smart to bet that Thomas will blow past the 16 goals and 66 points he registered this year. How many teams can boast three better forwards than Thomas, Cliff Pu and Max Jones? 

Verdict: Breakout 2.0 and one of many All-Star calibre Knights 

Bold Off-Season Prediction: 80-90 points, among the league-leaders in assists, and earns a spot on one of the OHL All-Star teams. Considering his meteoric rise already, these predictions may not be bold enough. 

Worth Mentioning: Cliff Pu, Max Jones, Janne Koukkanen, Alex Formenton, Evan Bouchard, and Victor Mete could have all been worthy selections too. It’s going to be another long year for London haters. 

 

Mississauga Steelheads 

Owen Tippett (Terry Wilson OHL Images)Owen Tippett 

The second-highest ranked OHL player heading into the 2017 NHL Draft, Tippett enters the 17-18 season as perhaps the most exciting player in the OHL and maybe all of the CHL for that matter. He is second to none in the categories of dynamic game-breaking speed and shooting ability off the rush, and those attributes propelled him to a 44-goal, 75-point sophomore campaign with the Eastern Conference champion Mississauga Steelheads. It is scary to imagine him and Michael McLeod playing together for another season and even more terrorizing for opposing players and coaches. Expect Tippett to 

continue to improve his all-around game as he works towards reaching his potential as an NHL star. 

Verdict: An electrifying, human highlight-reel winger 

Bold Off-Season Prediction: 50-60 goals, Team Canada World Junior scoring-line winger, and then off to the NHL in 2018-19 

 

Niagara Icedogs 

Akil Thomas 

An OHL All-Rookie Team selection, Thomas turned in an impressive first year with the Icedogs, exceeding even the expectations that his first-round OHL Priority Draft selection set out for him. The speedy pivot finished second on the Icedogs in goals with 21 and was their fourth-highest point-producer with 48 in 61 games played. On top of the All-Rookie nod, Thomas was one of just two 2000-born players from the OHL to make Team Canada’s Under-18 team along with Flint’s Ty Dellandrea. A buzzsaw attacker, Thomas can dazzle with his speed and challenging aggression, and he possesses very nimble feet and shiftiness which makes him extremely evasive in any position on the ice. Apart from his skill and talent, he seems to have an ideal demeanour equipped with confidence, maturity, and desire, and his early selection into the U-18 program echoes that sentiment. It has been a shrewd rebuild in Niagara since the club’s OHL Championship appearance in 2016 and Thomas is at the head of an exciting young pack of ‘dogs. 

Verdict: Breakout star 

Bold Off-Season Prediction: Leads team in goals and points and works his way into a Top 15 Selection at the 2018 NHL Draft. 

 

Next up: North Bay, Oshawa, Ottawa, Owen Sound, Peterborough

 

INITIAL 2018 OHL DRAFT RANKING

Initial 2018 OHL DRAFT RANKING

1.  Quinton Byfield, York-Simcoe Express
 
2.  Jamie Drysdale, Toronto Marlboros
 
3.  Dylan Peterson, CIHA 
 
4.  Antonio Stranges, Little Caesars 16U 
 
5.  Cameron Tolnai, Oakville Rangers 
 
6.  Cole Perfetti, Vaughan Kings
7.  Lleyton Moore, Toronto Marlboros 
 
8.  Reid Valade, Toronto Marlboros 
 
9.  Jean-Luc Foudy, Toronto Titans
 
10.  Ryan O'Rourke, Vaughan Kings 
 

Next up is our Mid-Season Draft Ranking in December

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OHL Draft Prospect Interviews (2002)

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