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- Created: Saturday, 17 June 2017 13:19
In the third part of our "Ones to Watch" series, Andrew Sykes breaks down players from North Bay, Oshawa, Ottawa, Owen Sound and Peterborough. Be sure to check back at the previous two releases.
North Bay Battalion
McMaster’s first OHL season went how most would have expected from a smaller player playing in the league as a 16/17-yeard-old, on a non-playoff team. The club’s first-round, 13th-overall pick from the 2016 Draft, there was surely some adjustments to be made for a player used to playing a high-octane offensive game to Stan Butler’s well-rounded, pro-style system. The Beamsville native found the back of the net just five times and dished out 19 assists which were modest totals, but right there with most other rookie 1st-round-picks.
A highly-skilled offensive player with an arsenal of weapons, McMaster features effortless dynamic speed, tremendous quick hands and puck-skills, quality playmaking vision, and an excellent quick release with the ability to get the puck off his stick in a moment’s notice off the rush. With a year of gaining size and experience under his belt, look for him to begin to maximize those attributes and become one of North Bay’s most consistent threats on a nightly basis.
Bold Off-Season Prediction: 20 goals and leads the Battalion in assists and power-play points
A Scout.ca favourite since his minor midget season, Studnicka’s development has gone largely as expected and should take a bigger jump in 2017-18. After a solid all-around rookie campaign, but one that saw him struggle a bit in the goal department, Studnicka potted 18 goals and totalled 52 points in his second season with the Generals while being one of the club’s most relied upon players.
Ranked by Central Scouting as the 120th North American skater with other top sources ranking him much more favourably, Studnicka does not boast overly flashy offensive qualities but is a very intelligent player with outstanding game-reading abilities with and without the puck and on both sides of the puck. He may project best as a bottom six forward in the NHL, but as a junior player he is certainly no slouch offensively. He has plenty enough skill to go along with his smarts and competitiveness, which should allow him to considerably improve upon his sophomore season stats.
Verdict: Offensive breakout
Bold Off-Season Prediction: Around 30 goals and 75 points while staking his claim as one of the top two-way centres in the OHL
In his first full season in Ottawa after being traded from Sarnia in his rookie season, there were glimpses of Chmelevski’s unquestionable talents, with the general belief being that he still has much more to give. His 21 goals and 43 points might not jump off the page, but it was a trying season at times for everyone in the 67’s fold. On upside alone, Chmelevski’s potential is among the highest of NHL Draft eligible OHLers. Possessing a gamebreaking skill-set, he is an extremely agile skater with dynamic change of direction and elusiveness, along with a naturally powerful stride which allows him to burst through checks with ease. His ability to create space for himself and then follow with skilful passing and a lethal shot gives him all the tools of a top point-producer. The OHL’s Scholastic Player of the Year, Chmelevski and his teammates will now have to adjust to a new coach but a young, talented team gives plenty of reason for fans in the nation’s capital to be excited about.
Verdict: Breakout star
Bold Off-Season Prediction: 30 goals, 80 points and makes a very happy team of whoever selects him in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
Owen Sound Attack
Every young athlete has to do deal with doubt. Doubting whether or not you actually have what it takes to reach the top of the mountain. When Nick Suzuki looks back on his career it is quite likely that he will look at the 2016-17 season as the launching pad that gave him the confidence that he could indeed get to where he was seeking. 45 goals, 96 points, a second-team OHL All-Star selection, and the CHL Sportsmanship award winner, Suzuki thrust himself into the upper echelon of junior hockey in just his second season with the Owen Sound Attack.
Suzuki’s incredible year vaulted him way up the NHL Draft rankings which he heads into as the 10th ranked North American skater, the third-highest ranking among OHL eligible players. The definition of a thinking man’s player, he has an elite IQ for the game, reading the play at an advanced level and anticipating what is going to happen on the ice well in advance in order to always be around the puck on the offensive side of the game and then to be in the right position on the defensive side. Add in supreme skill and precision and you have one of the best players in the CHL.
The Attack’s 49 win season took the league by storm, and with the London native leading the way, they are just getting started.
Verdict: Dominant, MVP-calibre centre
Bold Off-Season Prediction: Team Canada World Junior team member and the Red Tilson Award winner
Call this one a hunch but I feel that Wells is in for a big, big year. In 2016-17 the St. Catherines native was among the busiest goalies in the OHL. Playing behind a Peterborough team that surprised many by finishing first in the Eastern Conference regular-season and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, Wells ranked fifth in minutes played and was second in both shots faced and saves. Despite his save percentage not being among the top five in the league, there are some who consider Wells to be the best goaltender in the OHL. With ideal height, athleticism, and flexibility Wells is certainly a prototypical NHL goaltender. The Petes have a chance to be even better in 2017-18 and if the Edmonton Oilers 4th-round pick can raise his game up a level then they could be looking at an even deeper run.
Verdict: All-Star, backbone goaltender
Bold-Off Season Prediction: Top candidate for the OHL Goaltender of the Year Award and an invitation to Team Canada’s World Junior Selection Camp
Check back in to TheScout.ca for the final five remaining teams in Saginaw Spirit, Sarnia Sting, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Sudbury Wolves and Windsor Spitfires.