The Eastern Conference looks quite solid again this year. While I would say London is the current favourite, there are a bunch of teams in this Conference that could really challenge them for superiority (Barrie and Niagara especially). It's also very deep in talent. Teams like Mississauga, and Sudbury should be much improved. Teams like Oshawa and North Bay have lost a lot of talent, but they still remain solid squads. It should be quite the dogfight for the 7-8 spots in the Conference.
- Created: Monday, 21 September 2015 02:56
The 2015 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.
- Created: Tuesday, 08 September 2015 03:19
One of the great things about the OHL is the improvement that players show from one season to the next. Whether it's strength, confidence, increased playing time, or a combination of all three, there are several players in the league who "breakout," each season. The list below aims to highlight 10 players from each age group who could have very good years in 2015/16.
Jonathan Ang - Peterborough Petes
Not worried about Peterborough's goaltending or defence, but they'll need a couple of players to step up as offensive stars. Ang looks like he could be that guy, with a dynamic offensive skill set and added strength.
Jakob Chychrun - Sarnia Sting
Maybe a bit of a stretch putting him on this list, but the reality is…if he's healthy, I expect him to establish himself as a best defenseman in the entire OHL and the likely winner of the Defenseman of the Year award.
Cam Dineen - North Bay Battalion
A first year player transferring from the EHL, where he lead all defenseman in scoring and was rookie of the year. This is not an easy league for young players to star in. With some graduations, North Bay will need someone to step up as a puck mover and power play QB and I expect that to be Dineen.
Tye Felhaber - Saginaw Spirit
Looked very impressive at the Hlinka camp and I think he's in for a big season as part of an underrated Saginaw club that could surprise with speed, skill, and tenacity.
Jonah Gadjovich - Owen Sound Attack
Really liked this player last year and I think he's got a lot of potential as a power forward in this league. The Attack could struggle to score a bit, but I think Gadjovich has a solid season and establishes himself as a top 3 round candidate for 2017 (late birthday).
Tim Gettinger - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Hulking winger who is coming off a solid showing at the Ivan Hlinka. Tons of skill in Sault Set. Marie's lineup, even with graduations, and they'll need a big guy to finish in close. Gettinger could be in for a big draft season.
Jordan Kyrou - Sarnia Sting
Tremendous young playmaker with feet that never stop moving, Kyrou should see a significant spike in his production this year on a much improved Sarnia team.
Michael McLeod - Mississauga Steelheads
I think McLeod is poised to emerge as one of the league's serious breakout stars this year. His speed and strength coming down the wing and off the wall, makes him a serious scoring threat. Combine that with an improved offensive supporting cast and I could see McLeod as a 40 goal scorer.
Victor Mete - London Knights
London is going to have some serious firepower up front this year. Someone has to get them the puck and run that power play. Look for Mete to be in the top 5 of defensive scoring this year.
Dylan Wells - Peterborough Petes
Back stopped Canada to a gold at the Hlinka and I see him coming into camp with the Petes and grabbing hold of the starting job within the first month of the season (no offence meant to Matthew Mancina).
HM's: Givani Smith (GUE) & Christopher Paquette (NIA)
Noah Carroll - Guelph Storm
I don't think the Storm are going to be a great team this year (with, or without Fabbri), but Carroll should emerge as the team's top defender and a possible top 3 round candidate in 2016.
Anthony Cirelli - Oshawa Generals
Last year Cirelli emerged as one of the biggest surprises in the league (a free agent signing by OSH), and I expect him to take that next step this coming year. From complimentary offensive piece to standout offensive catalyst. Should be a 70+ point player.
Luke Kirwan - Windsor Spitfires
We've seen it time, and time again. Players transferring from the USHL (or NTDP) tend to struggle in their first year in the OHL. Kirwan needs a big bounce back year to put himself back in conversation for the first round in 2016 and I think we'll see that.
Mason Kohn - Kitchener Rangers
I thought he was under utilized by Kitchener's management last year, as shown by his strong performance in the playoffs when he saw more ice time. Kitchener has a veteran laden team, but it's Kohn that I expect to really see a jump in production from.
Travis Konecny - Ottawa 67's
Already an established point per game player, I expect Konecny to really take that next step offensively to break into the top 10 of scoring in the league (which makes him a 90 point player).
Brett McKenzie - North Bay Battalion
Stan Butler often brings his forwards along slowly and I was shocked to see McKenzie not drafted in 2015. But I think he's a very talented player who is going to get his chance to center a scoring line now (with power play time).
Tyler Parsons - London Knights
At this point, I think we all expect London to be quite the powerhouse this year. And Parsons should be the goaltender along for this ride. He's more than just a pawn though. Parsons is a quality goaltending prospect who should gain a lot of confidence from playing behind a strong team.
Zach Senyshyn - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
The surprise of the 2015 draft (for most people), Senyshyn is a legit prospect who's going to get lots of ice time (and power play time) in the Soo this year. Look for a big time breakout from the goal scorer (35+ goals).
Mitchell Stephens - Saginaw Spirit
Was terrific in the 2nd half of last year and sensational at the U18's, parlaying that into a 2nd round draft selection. Confidence should be high heading into the season and I think he'll have a great year with a strong supporting cast (think 80+ points).
Colton White - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Loved this player last year and I think he's poised for a big time breakout. With all the graduations in the Soo, White could potentially be a first pairing defender this year and see tons of power play time. One of the league's breakout defensive stars.
HM's: Evan Cormier (SAG), Liam Dunda (OS), Nikita Korostelev (SAR), & Cam Lizotte (PTB)
Zach Bratina - North Bay Battalion
Struggled to stay on the ice last year, but he was effective when he played. I look for him to emerge as North Bay's top offensive weapon on the wing, on a team with some solid depth down the middle. A Stan Butler type of player who I think scores 30 this year.
Blake Clarke - Saginaw Spirit
Have to feel for Clarke after the last two seasons have not gone according to plan. Not ready to give up on him yet though. Finally healthy, I think he puts himself back on the map with a 25 goal season.
Stephen Desrocher - Oshawa Generals
Loved what I saw from Desrocher in the playoffs and the Memorial Cup, when he was seeing top 4 ice time. He'll get even more this year and should be poised for a big time breakout. I expect him to be in the top 10 of defensive scoring.
C.J. Garcia - Guelph Storm
Along with Carroll, Garcia should emerge as a top defender on Guelph. I didn't like the Harpur deal for Barrie at the time and still don't like it. Garcia is criminally underrated and I think he's a 35+ point player this year.
Josh Ho-Sang - Niagara IceDogs
With back to back 80+ point seasons, it may seem odd to see Ho-Sang's name on this list. However, I think this year becomes his true breakout, where he cracks the top 10 of OHL scoring and hits that 100 point mark.
Ryan MacInnis - Kitchener Rangers
The most important player in Kitchener's lineup this year. They really need him to step up and lead this club offensively. With his skill set, I do think he steps up to the challenge in his final year in the league.
Jacob Middleton - Ottawa 67's
Has established himself as a very solid player in his own end at this point, but the offensive game had yet to really come around…until this season. I think Middleton really breakouts out as a two-way star on one of the East's top teams.
Roland McKeown - Kingston Frontenacs
Like Chris Bigras last year, I expect McKeown to find his offensive confidence in his final OHL season. He focused on the defensive side of things last year which should allow him to take more chances offensively this year.
Alex Peters - Flint Firebirds
The forgotten man after a season ending injury last year, Peters will be poised and ready to establish himself as a top 10 defender in the league this year. He'll lead a Firebirds team that will look to start off their new surroundings in a positive way.
Spencer Watson - Kingston Frontenacs
Easily one of the most offensively talented players in the league, but his numbers have yet to match his skill set. I just can't see him disappointing yet again this year and based on how strong he looked in those team Canada exhibition games, I think this is finally going to be the year where we see him near the top of the scoring race.
HM's: David Miller (KIT), Blake Siebenaler (NIA), Brent Moran (NIA), Roy Radke (BAR), & Keigan Goetz (SSM)
Greg Betzold - Peterborough Petes
Blessed with great size and hustle coming down the wing, I think this is the year that Betzold finally breaks out offensively. The Petes will need their veteran forwards to really step up and I see Betzold as a 30+ goal scorer and point per game player.
Josh Burnside - Mississauga Steelheads
Has been hovering around the 40 point mark for the last few years, but this OHL veteran should be in for an offensive spike this year. A few more playmakers in the lineup and Burnside is good enough near the crease to put up 25-30 goals this year.
Stephen Harper - Hamilton Bulldogs
Following the move back to forward half way through last year, Harper looked like a different player and as such, I see him having a pretty big year as Hamilton's go to offensive guy. For the first time in his OHL career, he's going to be a point per game player.
Tyler Hore - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Has proved to be a great acquisition for the Hounds, emerging as one of their top defensive players. However, in his OA year, I expect the offensive side of things to really come around. Confidence is the name of the game and I say that leads him to a 35+ point season.
Jake Marchment - Erie Otters
I would be downright shocked if he's not back in the OHL for his overage season. And that means I think he's going to have a very big year. Erie still has tons of talent on the wing and if he's back in the OHL, I see him as a 30/30 player.
Brent Pedersen - Oshawa Generals
One of those guys who still hasn't put it all together in his OHL career. His lack of offensive development was the main reason Carolina chose not to sign him. But, having one NHL door slammed in your face can often serve as great motivation (ask Joseph Blandisi, Jake Muzzin, etc). I think he bounces back and finally hits that 30 goal mark in his OA year
Will Petschenig - Saginaw Spirit
Very underrated acquisition by Saginaw this offseason, I've long been a fan. Just a solid all around defender. In Saginaw I think he'll take on a little more offensive responsibility and I see him closing out his career with a 30 point campaign.
Mathew Santos - North Bay Battalion
Hard working veteran winger who is an integral part of the leadership group in North Bay. He's the type of player who breaks out in his OA season. I think he's a 25/25 guy and the potential captain for the Battalion.
Sam Studnicka - Ottawa 67's
Already had a mini break out last year and I expect his numbers to jump yet again in his final year. He's going to have a talented center to play with (Konecny or Salituro) and he'll be the guy responsible for opening up space and banging home garbage. Another jump in the 25/30 goal range is possible.
Michael Webster - Barrie Colts
Webster has slowly improved every year he's been in the league. Next year he'll be counted on as a top 4 defender on one of the best team's in the conference. Moves the puck well and I think the offensive confidence grows to the point where he's a 35+ point player.
HM's: Jordan Maletta (NIA), Jacob Harris (SUD), & Bradley Latour (WIN)
- Created: Thursday, 27 August 2015 16:53
With the Ivan Hlinka tournament completed and OHL preseason action around the corner, it's time for the first draft list of the season. I only started doing a preseason list a few years ago, but I enjoy it because it gives you a great perspective on where players have come from (for fun, here's 2015's preseason list).
This is obviously a very difficult list to make. The progression for draft eligible players can often be a tad unpredictable. The player you see in a sophomore season isn't often the same player you see in a freshman year. Growth spurts occur. Strength is added. Confidence grows. Timid perimeter players can become physical beasts, etc. Plus, you've got all the players who haven't yet played in the OHL, but who are projected to be impact players in their draft year (Max Jones, Matt Tkachuk, etc).
Face value, I think this looks like a solid group for the OHL, which is only going to get better when you add in a ton of draft eligible talent that's entering the league this year. Once again, the league will provide a challenger for first overall, in addition to several other top 10 candidates.
I will also add that this looks like it could be the best draft crop of goaltenders that the OHL has produced in years.
Here's a look at my early list:
30. Connor Bunnaman - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
Excellent in a checking line role with the Rangers last year, as he demonstrated an ability to be very strong without the puck. Looks like he could develop into an excellent puck possession type of center who can control the wall and make plays behind the net. Also a hard worker who is active on the forecheck and not afraid to mix things up. Showed a pretty decent shot last year and could have even more scoring potential. He should get more ice time this year and could be an important piece of Kitchener's veteran laden lineup.
29. Drake Rymsha - Forward - London Knights
High energy, well rounded center who did everything asked of him in a limited role with London last year. He skates quite well and plays the game with little fear, involving himself on the forecheck, back check, and crashing the net. Also showed well as a penalty killer when called upon. While he doesn't possess ideal size for the role, he looks like he could develop into an excellent two-way forward. Just remains to be seen how much offensive potential he has.
28. Noah Carroll - Defence - Guelph Storm
Reminds me a bit of Travis Dermott after his first OHL season, but not quite as naturally talented offensively. A late '97, Carroll made himself a valued member of Guelph's blue line in his first OHL season, improving nearly every month as he slowly gained more ice time and responsibility. Intense and intelligent in his own end, Carroll could develop into a real shutdown defender at the OHL level. His first pass continues to improve and he even flashed an ability to jump up in the rush late in the season. Should see even more ice time this year and perhaps that will give us a better read of his offensive potential.
27. Tyler Parsons - Goaltender - London Knights
A free agent signing by the Knights last year, Parsons proved himself to be a very capable OHL net minder and a great find. Not blessed with ideal size at the position, but Parsons is very athletic and makes a lot of second, third saves using his quickness and reflexes. Will need to learn to make himself bigger in the net and continue to work on his positioning, but he looks like a starter in the OHL. As of right now, he'll be the starter for London in his draft year and if he plays well, he could really draw attention to himself in a positive way.
26. Anthony Salinitri - Forward - Sarnia Sting
Ultra quick forward who was the main component to the Anthony DeAngelo last year. He went from playing sparingly with the Greyhounds to seeing all the action he could handle in Sarnia. Salinitri is great at using his speed to gain entry to the zone, and once his hands catch up to his feet and he gets a bit stronger, he could be a beast to handle off the rush. He also doesn't shy away from contact and is a competent two-way player for his age. Because of his speed and intelligence, he profiles as an above average penalty killer. Should definitely see a spike in production this year on a good team.
25. Zach Poirier - Forward - North Bay Battalion
Poirier is sort of your typical Battalion forward. Hard nosed, loves to attack the net, works well off the wall. Poirier has a terrific shot which deftly profiles him as a goal scorer. At this point, he just needs to add quickness, especially in his first few steps, to get himself those scoring chances consistently. Played a depth role for his coach at the Ivan Hlinka tournament.
24. Christopher Paquette - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
Has proven to be a great find by the IceDogs in the 2nd round thus far, after a solid first season in the league. Highly skilled forward who works very well in traffic, using his puck skill to create time and space for himself to unleash a great shot. Works very well off the rush, even though he could upgrade his skating a tad bit. Will need to round out his game, becoming more active away from the puck, but his ceiling is very high offensively and he could be a big time breakout star in the league this year with added strength to an already big frame.
23. Troy Timpano - Goaltender - Sudbury Wolves
It's certainly not easy being the starting goaltender on a last place team. The Wolves were bad, but the important thing is that they weren't bad because of Timpano. Any time the team put up a fight against a better team, it was because Timpano was exceptional between the pipes. He's your typical butterfly goaltender in the sense that he's quick, agile, and athletic. Can tend to drop down in the butterfly a bit early, and will need to do a better job of fighting through traffic to make saves, but he's a quality goaltending prospect trapped on a rebuilding club. Already in his 3rd season (a late '97), if Timpano continues to improve, the Wolves could compete for a playoff spot this upcoming season.
22. Adam Mascherin - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
Super stocky, competitive, yet highly skilled forward. Mascherin had a solid rookie season with Kitchener, however struggled with consistency like most of the other Rangers forwards. Is only 5'9, but is incredibly strong along the wall and shows great poise and patience in the possession game. Needs to continue to improve his play away from the puck, and should develop into a beast in the dump and chase because of his ability to gain positioning using his skill and strong lower body. With his lack of size, he'll need to put up some offensive numbers to be heavily considered come June 2016
21. Joseph Raaymakers - Goaltender - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
At times, Raaymakers was absolutely fantastic for the Hounds in his rookie season. If Halverson was struggling or needed a night off, the team felt confident going to the Chatham native for a start. Inconsistency was an issue, but he has all the tools in the toolbox to develop into a quality starting net minder. Whether that's this season or not depends on whether the Hounds end up dealing Brandon Halverson in what could be a bit of a retooling season.
20. Keaton Middleton - Defence - Saginaw Spirit
Absolutely behemoth defender who I like a lot (despite some short comings). Is already a very difficult player to match up against defensively. Is physically intimidating, does a great job of winning one on one battles, and has a great stick. Skating is average, but he has good enough instincts to over come that. Does occasionally get caught flat footed off the rush though. The real key will be the development of his puck skills. Can struggle with the forecheck and needs to make a better first pass. But once he's out of his own zone, his offensive game shows some potential. If he can clean things up a bit, and add an offensive element, he could be a first round candidate. Really excited to see his development this year.
19. Jonathan Ang - Forward - Peterborough Petes
Super speedy and skilled forward who recently looked very good at the Ivan Hlinka camp (but was ultimately cut). Ang is very dangerous in transition as he controls the puck very well at high speed and has dynamic puck skills which he can use to make defenders look silly. Strength is the key for him as last year he was too easily pushed off the puck and wasn't given the opportunity to extend plays. But he looked stronger at the Hlinka camp. Also needs to be better away from the puck and learn to use his speed as a weapon defensively, which was another thing I noticed positively from the Hlinka camp. Could be in for a big year offensively.
18. Evan Cormier - Goaltender - Saginaw Spirit
The Spirit definitely look to have their next goaltending star in Cormier, taking the reigns from the terrific Jake Paterson. Cormier looks poised and confident in the crease and does a very good job of tracking the play and shoring up to shooters. Just needs to make sure he doesn't drop to the butterfly too early and will need to continue to work on his post to post movement. But he was recently the 2nd youngest net minder at Hockey Canada's U20 camp and he has a bright future ahead of him.
17. Dylan Wells - Goaltender - Peterborough Petes
Right now the top net minder available from the OHL and I don't expect that to change this season. Wells has the size and athleticism in the crease that NHL scouts crave. Moves exceptionally well in his crease and does a good job of tracking the play for a young net minder. Needs to develop his rebound control though, as he has a tendency to put juicy ones back into play. Was terrific at the Ivan Hlinka tournament for Canada and I expect him to take control of the starter's job in Peterborough pretty quickly into the 2015/2016 season.
16. Nathan Bastian - Forward - Mississauga Steelheads
Big, powerful forward who has grown a lot in the last two years and is still learning to utilize his size to his advantage. The late '97 forward had a very solid first OHL season last year, playing a secondary scoring role for the Steelheads. He protects the puck well with his body and is starting to develop into someone who can be very dangerous driving the net. Bastian might be at his best near the crease where he has great hands and finishing ability. Hopefully he continues to get quicker, and continues to learn to use his size away from the puck (especially physically), but he's an intriguing player.
15. Givani Smith - Forward - Guelph Storm
Power winger who enjoyed a lot of success with the Storm after the trade from Barrie (Harpur deal). Plays a solid North/South game and he might be the most physical forward on this list right now. Attacks the offensive end with vigour and shows a great ability to protect the puck off the rush and create by driving the net wide. Skating will need to continue to get better, but if his play late last year is any indication, he's a prospect on the rise.
14. Luke Kirwan - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
This upcoming season is a huge one for Kirwan. The late '97 was a massive disappointment last year for Windsor after transferring from the USDP. At one time, was considered a possible top 5 pick for the 2016 draft, but after last year his stock has plummeted. But not so fast. We all know how much USHL transfers tend to improve in their second year in the league. Kirwan dominated the U17's not too long ago and I'm not ready to give up on him. Kirwan is a potential power forward who can control the game in a variety of different ways. He's a potential 30 goal scorer this year and will probably need to be to regain his first round status.
13. Travis Barron - Forward - Ottawa 67's
Barron is a character forward who likes to play at a high tempo. A solid complimentary piece on a scoring line because he's a good finisher and is intelligent away from the puck. Already a solid two-way player, Barron loves to mix things up and should develop into a very physical forechecker. As he gets quicker, I expect him to be more of a factor off the rush, which would add a lot of value to him as a player. Perhaps not mentioned enough, he's a potential captain at this level and the next and should be a rock for the 67's moving forward.
12. Will Bitten - Forward - Flint Firebirds
Undersized, but extremely talented, Bitten is a center who loves playing the game at top speed. He's got the slippery quality to him because his puck skill is so good and it creates time and space for himself to operate in the middle of the ice. Bitten also plays bigger than his size, and is eager to engage without the puck and should eventually develop into a terrific penalty killer. The one thing I did notice last year was that he had a tendency to over handle the puck and as such was a bit turnover prone. Needs to learn to use his teammates better. But he was great at the Ivan Hlinka, playing within Stan Butler's system which bodes well for the type of season he's going to have.
11. Alex Debrincat - Forward - Erie Otters
How the times have changed. A few years ago, despite being exceptionally talented, a kid like Debrincat wouldn't have drawn any attention from the NHL. But small players have found a ton of success in the league today and as such, a pint sized forward like Debrincat (5'7, perhaps a few inches taller going into this season) will be given a chance. Credit has to be given to him though. For as small as he is, he's absolutely fearless. Would he have scored over 100 points without McDavid by his side? I don't think so. But he also made McDavid a better player because of the things he does on the ice. Is incredibly elusive, constantly slipping behind defences for scoring chances. Keeps plays alive along the wall despite being undersized, and is great at driving the net. If he were 6'2, we'd be talking about him as a potential top 10 pick.
10. Tim Gettinger - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Could be a big time riser this year if he puts everything together. 6'5, 200lbs, but skates very well for a big man. As such, he can be an absolute load to handle off the rush. Without the puck, he loves to drive the net and has great hands in close, for deflections and tap ins. As he gets stronger, I expect the rest of his game to really develop. In particular, I'd love to see him use his size to play a physical game and really disrupt on the forecheck (especially with his speed). The U.S. didn't have the best Ivan Hlinka tournament, but he was one of their best and most productive players which bodes well for the upcoming season when he's going to get more ice time and responsibility in the Soo.
9. Victor Mete - Defence - London Knights
Undersized defender who has the potential to be one of the OHL's elite offensive playmakers. Struggled mightily at the beginning of last year, but got better each month in the league and was probably London's best defender by the time the playoffs rolled around. Mete is an elite skater, and as good as he is at creating offence using his speed, he's learning to use his mobility as an asset defensively, closing out on forwards off the rush. There's no question that he's a high risk player though and still makes his share of mistakes. He'll need to iron those out this year as London will need him to be a top 3 defender on a potential Memorial Cup contending squad. Was a member of Canada's Ivan Hlinka team this year, seeing pretty significant ice time.
8. Taylor Raddysh - Forward - Erie Otters
A pure finisher who had a great rookie year in Erie, leading all '98 born players in goal scoring with 21. Is a very smart player in the offensive end who has that innate ability to find holes in the defence and get himself in scoring position. Is not afraid of doing the little things that need to be done to attain or maintain possession and is the perfect complimentary scoring line player. Will be interesting to see if his play with the puck becomes a little more dynamic, or is it more of a case of, what we see, is what we get?
7. Brandon Saigeon - Forward - Hamilton Bulldogs
Cut from the same cloth as the Scott Laughton, Mike Richards types. Saigeon is a competitive two-way center who should be a cornerstone of the new Bulldogs franchise. I expect that as he gets stronger, he'll become a force along the wall and working the cycle, and that he'll become quite a physical player. Offensively, he sees the ice well and makes things happen when the game slows down a bit. Last year, his skating was a bit of a weakness, but he looked quicker at the Ivan Hlinka camp and should be in for a big draft season.
6. Jordan Kyrou - Forward - Sarnia Sting
A great find by the Sting at the back of the 2nd round, Kyrou has emerged as one of the top 98's in the country, let alone Ontario. He was the 3rd highest scoring '98 in the OHL last year and was consistently one of Sarnia's best players in the 2nd half. Kyrou plays the game with a ton of energy, constantly buzzing around, with and without the puck. When it's on his stick, his creativity and vision make him a terrific playmaker. When it's not on his stick, he's battling hard to get it back and can be relentless in puck pursuit. Overall, just a terrific playmaking center who makes those around him better. Was great for Canada at the Ivan Hlinka tournament and as of right now, he looks like a first round pick.
5. Tye Felhaber - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
Felhaber is an elite offensive player who could one day be the scoring leader of the OHL. Felhaber plays and excels at a high tempo, using his speed to drive the center of the ice. He has great skill with the puck in transition and creates space to unleash a nasty wrist shot off the rush. Last year he struggled with the size of some defenders, but he was an offensive force at the Ivan Hlinka camp (and a massively surprising cut IMO) who looked considerably stronger on the puck. He also looked more dedicated to playing without the puck, a key to his development moving forward. He just might be the most gifted offensive player on this list and he's poised for a big year.
4. Sean Day - Defence - Mississauga Steelheads
Perhaps the most talked about player on this list because of his exceptional status with Hockey Canada. While his development hasn't gone completely according to plan, he remains a solid prospect because of his size and skill set. The most obvious component to that is his effortless skating ability, which he uses to his advantage at both ends of the ice. Then there's the 6'2, 230lbs frame and the potential to develop into a dominating force in his own end. But…there's also the lack of intensity that can be frustrating. Just seems to be lacking that killer instinct. With his skill set, he should be jumping up in the play and pacing the action, but instead seems hesitant to do so. Then there's the cut at the Ivan Hlinka camp where he failed to stand out (and apparently had some conditioning issues). This is a huge year for him. There's no guarantee he's even a first round pick at this point, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until the season starts. If he doesn't put things together, he'll drop heavily on my preliminary list in November.
3. Logan Brown - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
Gigantic center (6'5) who is coming off a terrific rookie season in the OHL where he led all '98's in scoring. Has the ability to dominate in the offensive end because of the way he can maintain possession and work the wall. But he also has great speed, especially for his size, and could dominate off the rush, if he learns to be more aggressive in attacking the net and the middle of the ice. With good hands in close, and vision, Brown is the type of center NHL teams drool over now. The only negative is that he's not necessarily a physical player and his overall intensity without the puck needs to improve. This was noticeable at the Ivan Hlinka camp, where he was cut (all be it, Canada was loaded down the middle). If he can turn up the dial on the aggressive meter and continue to put up points, he'll be highly coveted by the NHL.
2. Michael McLeod - Forward - Mississauga Steelheads
Had him at number 4 on my list until the Ivan Hlinka tournament. At the camp and at the tournament itself, he was one of Canada's top players and seems to have really taken that next step in his development. McLeod is an explosive skater who is fearless in driving the net and who is great working off the rush, or coming off the wall. He's got a great scorer's touch in close too. It seems like he's really added strength this offseason and he's going to be a very difficult player to stop in the offensive end. I also really like how physical he played at the Ivan Hlinka and I hope that continues into the OHL. The Steelheads have long needed a game breaking offensive star to kickstart their offence and McLeod could be that guy.
1. Jakub Chychrun - Defence - Sarnia Sting
Just stay healthy. That's all I've got to say. At the same age, I actually think Chychrun is ahead of where Aaron Ekblad was. As a rookie, he was a top 5 defender in the league IMO and he can heavily influence the game at either end. Solid defensively, physical, mobile, intelligent. Aggressive offensively with a fantastic point shot, and great vision. Most complete defender I've seen in the league since Drew Doughty (and that includes Ekblad). But, as I said, only obstacle in his way is his health, in particular a wonky shoulder. Missed the OHL Cup with a shoulder injury. Then missed time this year with a shoulder injury. Then had shoulder surgery that prevented him from playing at the Hlinka. Hopefully this surgery has cleaned things up and he can now focus on staying on the ice where he is a candidate for OHL defenseman of the year…and the first overall pick.
Cliff Pu - Forward - London Knights
Cole Candella - Defence - Hamilton Bulldogs
Ben Gleason - Defence - London Knights
Ben Hawerchuk - Forward - Barrie Colts
Logan Stanley - Defence - Windsor Spitfires
Michael Pezzetta - Forward - Sudbury Wolves
Appearing Soon (Have yet to play in the OHL):
Matthew Tkachuk - Forward - London Knights
Max Jones - Forward - London Knights
Dmitri Sokolov - Forward - Sudbury Wolves
Mikhail Sergachev - Defence - Windsor Spitfires
Markus Niemelainen - Defence - Saginaw Spirit
Olli Juolevi - Defence - London Knights