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- Created: Wednesday, 21 June 2017 14:11
In our final installment of Andrew Sykes' Early Look Towards 2017-18, we look at some high-end 2017 NHL Draft hopefuls who will be looking to make big strides with Saginaw, Sarnia, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury and Windsor next season.
A first-round, sixth-overall pick of the Spirit in 2015, Gilmour took big steps in 2016-17 scoring 26 goals and 47 points in 65 games. On a team that was among the lowest in the league in goals for, Gilmour took it upon himself to help out in the goal department despite being more of a playmaker by trade. While there still isn’t an influx of talent around him, one would assume that Gilmour’s assist total will rise next season. A slick offensive player with a high level of passing vision and instincts, the 18-year-old excels at making plays in traffic as he can find teammates and execute passes through the smallest of seams. An assistant captain in his second season, he possesses the competitive drive, work ethic, and leadership characteristics that you love to see in a young player, and that alone points to him making continued progress. And if he gets passed up in this weekend’s NHL Draft, that will add even more fuel to his fire to come in and have a big third season in Saginaw.
Verdict: Breakout team leader
Bold Off-Season prediction: Leads team in goals and assists
Kyrou has dazzled in the OHL ever since he first donned a Sting sweater, but in the 2016-17 season he showed why his potential is that of a scoring line forward in the NHL. Kyrou finished sixth in OHL scoring with 30 goals and 94 points, routinely demonstrating is elite offensive ability and carrying the load offensively for the Sting. He has already more than proven himself individually at the junior level, but the 2017-18 season will be a good chance for him to that show that he can lead a team to further success.
The St. Louis Blues 2nd round pick in 2016, Kyrou is one of those elite skaters who can breeze around the ice almost effortlessly while also having the supreme puck-skills and confidence to make plays at top speed. He is one of the most exciting players to watch in the league thanks to his agility and creativity, but there is also a lot to like about him on the defensive side of the puck and it is that versatility which should endear him to coach’s in the pro ranks.
Verdict: Dominant scoring-star
Bold Off-Season Prediction: 90-100 points again despite missing time to play for Team Canada at the 2018 World Junior Hockey Championships.
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Greyhounds fans, get ready for a big, big year from the 18-year-old Frost. In his second year with the club, the Barrie AAA product eclipsed 20 goals and 60 points and thrust himself among the top NHL Draft eligible forwards out of the CHL. With tons of talent and high expectations remaining, expect Frost to soar past the 62 points he put up this year. A playmaker in every sense of the word, Frost is the type of player who constantly makes the right read and play. He has an excellent feel for the game, having a very high panic threshold in possession as he draws players to him while maintaining the wherewithal for where all of his teammates are moving on the ice, and then delivering perfectly timed passes. He also plays an admirable game away from the puck, forechecking and backchecking with enthusiasm and working feverishly on the cycle. Alongside the likes of Boris Katchouk, Tim Gettinger, Jack Kopacka and Conor Timmins among others, Frost has all the resources around him he could ask for and I’d expect him to make the most of them and then some.
Verdict: Breakout point-machine
Bold Off-Season Prediction: 80-90 points and among the lead-leaders in assists
Levin’s incredible personal story has been well documented and expectations were very high when the Wolves selected him first-overall in 2015. After playing in just 47 games as a rookie, Levin dressed in 66 for the Wolves in 2017-18, scoring 18 goals and totalling 53 points. The team advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2014, losing in six games to the Oshawa Generals with Levin picking up six points in the series.
Eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft, the Israeli-born winger has all of the talent and skill of a first-round NHL pick. With his proficient puck-skills, quickness in out of traffic, and slick passing ability, there is no doubting that Levin has the tools of a top scorer in the OHL. The Wolves will have a nice mix of experience and youthful experience, and there should be more of a sense of roster stability and accountability. The fact that they went through a playoff series together should give them the motivation to come in and expect bigger and better things in the new season. Expect Levin to benefit from this and begin to reach those lofty expectations.
Verdict: Breakout star
Bold Off-Season Prediction: Leads team in scoring, the Wolves advance to the second-round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, and his 2018 NHL Draft stock is greatly improved.
Gabe Vilardi and Michael DiPietro
And we have a tie ladies and gentlemen. Really, how could Michael DiPietro and Gabe Vilardi not be mentioned as ones to watch in the 2017-18 season as they will be two of the biggest stars not just in the OHL, but in all the CHL. Both DiPietro and Vilardi would have been worthy Memorial Cup MVP’s as each were vital during the Spitfires shocking run of four straight wins over league champions after a 44-day layoff. Both enjoyed fantastic sophomore campaigns which have led them to being among the top ranked players at their position for the NHL Draft. Vilardi is a potential and likely top 5 pick, while DiPietro is the 4th ranked North American goaltender but may have very well moved himself further up that list in the eyes of NHL management after his amazing, team-leading performance at the Memorial Cup.
A dominant possession centre, the 6’3 Vilardi’s ability to gain position on defenders and win puck-battles along with sneaky thievery is Auston Matthews-esque. He then has the elite hockey sense and playmaking instincts to find teammates in scoring areas seemingly every time he steps on the ice.
In today’s game which is dominated by enormous goalies who act as walls taking up the entire net, DiPietro is a smaller netminder who relies on athleticism and competitiveness. And boy does he have those in spades. His elasticity and ability to quickly stretch his pads out is a thing of beauty to watch, and the competitiveness, focus, and natural leadership he brings every game for 60 minutes makes him unlike any player the OHL has seen at the position in quite some time.
DiPietro: All-World goaltender, virtually his team’s captain
Vilardi: Dominant centre and point-producing machine
Bold Off-Season Prediction:
DiPietro: Top candidate for the Red Tilson Trophy and member of Team Canada’s World Junior team
Vilardi: Red Tilson candidate and a member of Team Canada’s World Junior team
Thanks for following our Ones to Watch series and continue to follow our prospect coverage @TheScoutDotCa