Friday, January 13, 2017

2017 OHL Trade Deadline Report Cards

OHL players can now sleep easy as the 2017 OHL trade deadline has come and gone. Many players have said goodbyes. But with a new team often comes new and rewarding challenges. Many of these players will get the chance to play deeper into the playoffs and perhaps win an OHL championship. While others will receive increased responsibility and ice time in hopes of catching the eye of NHL scouts.

Many of the teams in the league were active in the past month. Several teams (London, Erie, Peterborough, Windsor, etc) loaded up for deep playoff runs. Other teams (Oshawa, Saginaw, Kitchener, etc) made moves to rebuild so that they can be good again in the years to come. The Western Conference, in particular, has become quite the juggernaut. It will be crazy fun to watch these teams battle it out in the playoffs.

For this article, I'm cutting off trades at the beginning of December. So any trades made before December won't be factored into a teams grade. No sense assessing a team's ability to trade over the course of the season (even the last month or so is a bit of a stretch).

Let's do some grading! 

Eastern Conference

Barrie Colts
In: Jason Smith, Robert Proner, Draft picks (2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 5, 10
Out: Cam Lizotte, Cordell James, Matt Brassard, Draft picks (5, 7)
Analysis: Given what they had to work with, I think the Colts did extremely well. No real blockbusters, so that prevents them from being an "A" (simply due to the impact these trades might have), but they did a great job. Dealing Matt Brassard was a bit of a surprise to me, but I think they dealt him at his highest value. Meanwhile, they brought in Robert Proner from Saginaw for a mid round pick, which is a tremendous value addition. Proner is a quality young defender who was holding out from Saginaw (was the 30th overall pick in 2015). He could impact the game at both ends and has a lot of potential. Really interested to see how he blossoms in Barrie, where he could see top 4 ice time. All in all, a very successful deadline for the Colts as they begin their rebuild.
Grade: B

Hamilton Bulldogs
In: Ben Garagan, Dawson Carty, Stephen Templeton, Draft picks (2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6)
Out: Adam Laishram, Trent Fox, Jesse Saban, Draft picks (2, 5, 5, 5, 8, 10)
Analysis: All things considered, I'm a bit disappointed with what the Bulldogs did at the deadline and leading up to it. I thought that dealing guys like Laishram and Fox would lead them to use those picks to pick up another veteran offensive blueliner, the team's biggest need IMO. For a team that has aspirations in winning the Eastern Conference, I'm actually not convinced that they're worse now than they were before the deadline. Bringing in Dawson Carty gives the team a veteran goaltender with playoff experience to push Kaden Fulcher, but is he guaranteed to the the team's playoff starter? And if he isn't, does it really make sense for this team to utilize an OA spot on someone who isn't playing. The kicker here is that the team has battled injuries this year and they're finally healthy. As such, they're playing as well as they did to start the year when they came out gangbusters. Is that enough to win the East? I'm just not sure. I will say that they got good value for Laishram and Fox though.
Grade: C+

Kingston Frontenacs
In: Cal Davis, Brett Neumann Draft picks (3, 4)
Out: Warren Foegele, Zack Dorval, Draft picks (5)
Analysis: Let me preface this by saying that I love with Kingston was able to do with the Foegele deal. Brett Neumann is going to be a very high scoring forward at some point during his OHL career. He's also likely to be the type to play 5 years in the league because of his lack of size. So Kingston gets a high impact player who could be a cornerstone for the next several years, on top of a quality draft pick. Hard to ask for a much better return for an OA. That said, this is a team that is caught in a bit of limbo IMO. Without Foegele, they don't have the offensive firepower to compete in the East. Since the Foegele deal, they're 1-3, and against Conference rivals too. I think this is a trend that will continue to the rest of the year. While I understand that the Fronts wanted to try and stay competitive by keeping their captain, Stephen Desrocher, I don't think it's the best thing for the franchise in the long run. Now, of course, Desrocher might have requested to stay in Kingston since he's had a few lengthy playoff runs in his career. But if he didn't, it was a major boo boo to not deal him IMO. Just the same as it was to not deal one of their 97's before next year. They've got 4 quality 97's who will return as overagers (this counting Jeremy Helvig who I think will most certainly return) and they won't get nearly as much for one of them as an OA, as they could have by dealing one now. Just think that they missed the boat on getting a few more draft picks or another quality young player to help this team be really good again in a few years.
Grade: C+

Mississauga Steelheads
In: Trent Fox, Jacob Cascagnette, Draft picks (7, 14)
Out: Jason Smith, Joseph Murdaca, Draft picks (3, 3, 4, 4, 5)
Analysis: Going into the deadline, I had mentioned on twitter that I had felt Mississauga really needed to go out and get more veteran forwards to round out their depth. While their 3rd and 4th lines bring energy, offensive production they do not. In the playoffs, that's going to be needed. So the additions of Fox and Cascagnette are just what the doctor ordered and they didn't have to give up the farm to get them. Cascagnette is a great penalty killer too and will go a long way to improving that. The Steelheads get to keep their couple of high end 2nds (Guelph's this year and Niagara's next year), which they will need to restock the cupboards after this season and round out the team's depth moving forward. Of course, I'm sure some people would have liked Mississauga to go out and improve their goaltending and/or their defense. But IMO, they can still win the East with what they currently have. Sounds like they did offer up a ton of picks for Michael McNiven, but the Attack wouldn't budge.
Grade: B

Niagara IceDogs
In: Kiril Maksimov, Nate McDonald, Justin Brack, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 5)
Out: Hayden Davis, Chris Paquette, Cal Davis, Draft picks (4, 11)
Analysis: Have to say, really shocked by the Hayden Davis trade. Didn't see that one coming, especially with Davis being a bit of a local boy (Hamilton born/raised). That said, the value that they received was pretty good. Maksimov has a ton of offensive potential and is the same age as Davis, while they also picked up a couple quality picks in that deal too. Then the real coup was grabbing 5 excellent draft picks for Chris Paquette. Of course, he'll be back again next year, at the very least, but with the team rebuilding, they just would have ended up dealing him then anyway. When you get that kind of offer, you take it. All those picks are going really help this team moving forward. Have to imagine that the Dogs look heavily to the blueline at this year's priority selection though (however, if they pick in the top 3, doesn't sound like there is a blueliner worthy of that high of a selection).
Grade: B+

North Bay Battalion
In: Jesse Saban, Draft picks (5, 10)
Out: Stephen Templeton, Maurizio Colella, Draft picks (5, 6, 10)
Analysis: A very quiet trade deadline for the Battalion, as they essentially stand pat, keeping their overagers and their veteran players. North Bay has not been playing great hockey of late, so I think some people half expected them to make a few moves to start a rebuild. But that's just not Stan Butler's style. Quite frankly, of their 96's and 97's, only Brett McKenzie would have brought back a ton. And since he's a candidate to return as an OA (unless Vancouver signs him early, or they have him play in the AHL on a minor league deal), North Bay seemed content to keep him around. This is a team that should be better next year, lead by a veteran defensive unit, so unless a team was willing to give up the moon for McKenzie, it makes sense. The acquisition of Saban is actually quietly a very strong one IMO. He's an underrated defender and is an upgrade over the likes of Bruce and Shoemaker as an OA candidate next year IMO. I suppose, though, if McKenzie ends up playing in the AHL next year, this won't look quite as good.
Grade: C+

Oshawa Generals
In: Mason Kohn, Allan McShane, Ian Blacker, Matt Brassard, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 6, 10)
Out: Anthony Cirelli, Mitchell Vande Sompel, Daniel Robertson, Stephen Templeton, Draft picks (2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3)
Analysis: Easily one of the busiest teams at this year's deadline. They deal their two biggest stars, but also make a few subtle moves to try and improve next year too (Kohn, and Brassard). I do really like what they managed to do though. They got great value out of dealing Cirelli and Vande Sompel. McShane and Blacker are solid young players who will be a part of the Generals core for the next several years. Kohn will be a very valuable overager next year and Brassard provides more depth to a defense. Then there is all the picks, that the Generals will no doubt utilize to improve their club again either next year or the year after (depending on how the Memorial Cup process goes and whether it accelerates their mini rebuild). All in all, the Generals should still be competitive in the East this year (give themselves a chance to win a round), but also make themselves way better for the future.
Grade: A

Ottawa 67´s
In: Zack Dorval, Chris Martenet, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 15)
Out: Dante Salituro, Drake Rymsha, Chase Campbell, Draft picks (4, 8)
Analysis: I think the 67's made the deals that they needed to make at this year's deadline. They got great draft pick value out of Rymsha (holding out), Campbell, and Salituro (who was a surprise return to the league). I think the loss of Rymsha hurts a bit moving forward, but they can replace him with an astute selection (likely to be top 8, maybe even top 5) at this year's priority selection. Martenet was the veteran OA defender I had talked about the 67's needing on twitter. They've got a very talented young blueline, but one who could use some veteran tutelage to close out the season. This team could still win an opening round series in round one IMO, but also improved a ton for the future. A successful deadline, given what they had available.
Grade: B

Peterborough Petes
In: Chris Paquette, Nikita Korostelev, Alex Black, Jake Bricknell, Draft picks (2, 3, 4)
Out: C.J. Clarke, Nick Grima, Nate McDonald, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 6, 15)
Analysis: Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Peterborough finally makes a splash on the trade market and they draw criticism for overpaying. Yet, if they don't pay up, they don't make deals and people accuse them of being complacent like they were last year. Bottom line is that Peterborough is playing very well and with the East being weak, this was the year to go for it and utilize that draft pick surplus to bring in talent. They didn't have to give up Pavel Gogolev. They didn't have to give up Zach Gallant. Grima is a quality young player, but the Petes have a very good young defense, so I don't think they need to be worried there. Peterborugh made themselves better and they did it from positions of strength. The underrated component that people aren't talking about here is that all three of these acquisitions have a great chance of returning next year. Black and Paquette will definitely be back and I think Korostelev is a 50/50 chance too as well (if the Leafs don't sign him). This isn't a one and done team. Peterborough will be just as strong next year, if not stronger. Thanks to these deals and player progression. IMO, this is the team to beat in the Eastern Conference now.
Grade: A-

Sudbury Wolves

In: Patrick Sanvido, Draft picks (5, 5)
Out: Ben Garagan, Draft picks (6, 14)
Analysis: Not much going on for the Wolves at this year's deadline. I think they made the right choice not to sell off their veterans, like Kyle Capobianco. This is a team that needs to make the playoffs this year because of what they've been through in recent years with ownership turmoils, coaching changes, player recruitment issues, etc. What has seemed like a very long rebuild is showing light at the end of the tunnel and it's time to get these young kids some playoff experience. Heck, the Wolves could even make it out of the first round too. Picking up Patrick Sanvido was really smart. He's not massively impactful player on the ice, but his experience will go a really long way to helping out in the locker room and his size will help this team down the stretch and into the playoffs. There's a reason he wore the "C" in Windsor. For the first time in a while, I feel like this team has an identity, so kudos for that. They get a good mark for holding steady and not doing anything rash.
Grade: B

Western Conference

Erie Otters
In: Cam Lizotte, Anthony Cirelli, Warren Foegele, Joseph Murdaca
Out: Allan McShane, Brett Neumann, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 14)
Analysis: Once Dylan Strome was returned to Erie, the writing was on the wall for this load up. Erie has been one of the top teams in the OHL the last 4 years, but has no Championships to show for it. When a guy like Strome suddenly returns, you owe it to your veteran players to give it one last kick at the can and that's just what Dave Brown and company did. But, they did it the right way. Cirelli and Foegele are not only fantastic scoring options, but they are also among the best two-way forwards in the entire OHL. These are the types of guys who help you win a playoff series. And Lizotte is an underrated pick up. He's a relentless physical presence who can help to take some pressure off of the young kids in a 3rd pairing role and on the PK. And sure, Erie gave up a ton. The cupboards are bare. BUT, they'll recoup a lot of assets next year when they move Taylor Raddysh, Jordan Sambrook, and Kyle Maksimovich. Such is the OHL cycle. And Otters have made success last longer than most teams in this league do.
Grade: A

Flint Firebirds
In: C.J. Clarke, Maurizio Colella
Out: Draft picks (2, 3, 5)
Analysis: Not much doing for the Firebirds. Instead of moving some of their veteran players (like Alex Peters), they decide to stand pat. Well actually, they brought in a couple forwards to help provide more depth to their team's offensive attack. Clarke is an interesting pick up who could flourish with more ice time. Given everything this team has gone through in the past year the difficulties with player recruitment, I think what they did was the right move. Keeping the leadership group intact so that they can make the playoffs and show growth. Heck, Flint might just be the 6th best team in the Western Conference after Kitchener and Sarnia made a few moves. What's that going to get them? A butt kicking in the first round. But it doesn't matter. Just making it that far has to be considered a win for the franchise. Like Sudbury in the East, this team gets a good grade for being patient and holding steady.
Grade: B-

Guelph Storm
In: Liam Hawel, Draft picks (3, 15)
Out: Noah Carroll, Jake Bricknell, Draft picks (2, 3, 3)
Analysis: Guelph didn't really do much, other than the big Carroll to SSM deal. Even though they had to give up a few extra draft picks, I think they did well in the deal. Liam Hawel is the big center that every team covets. He's definitely raw, but he fits extremely well into that lineup moving forward. I'm sure the Storm explored a few other deals, but with guys like Garrett McFadden and James McEwan returning as OA's next year, they obviously felt like the offers they were getting, just weren't good enough. I respect that, because next year the Storm should be that much better and having talented OA's will help.
Grade: B-

Kitchener Rangers

In: Andrew Burns, Cole Carter, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 5)
Out: Mason Kohn, Jeremy Bracco, Jacob Cascagnette, Dawson Carty, Draft picks (8, 13)
Analysis: I applaud the Rangers for doing the right thing. Even though they've played pretty well this year, there's just no chance they could compete in the loaded West this year. Especially given their injury issues on the backend. Now, that said, I'm not sure I'm incredibly enamored with their returns. Sure they loaded up on draft picks, which is going to help them in the future. But I can't help but be disappointed with the return for Jeremy Bracco. Yes...I know about his no movement clause that likely lowered the value he brought back since it handcuffed the organization to a degree. But when you see a guy like Chris Paquette bring back more than Bracco, I think you can't help but feel like Kitchener didn't play the cards as best as they could. Andrew Burns is a solid defender, but do they really need a '97 player? Wouldn't a guy like Tyler Nother been a better option because he'd be with the team for a few more years. And Cole Carter is a solid offensive player, but not getting back a '99 or 2000 player for Bracco has to hurt. Bottom line, I like the approach they took at this year's deadline, but the Bracco deal really has to leave a bit of a sour taste in the mouth.
Grade: C+

London Knights

In: Mitchell Stephens, Mitchell Vande Sompel, Dante Salituro, Draft picks (8)
Out: Ian Blacker, Chris Martenet, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 15)
Analysis: OK, they gave up a lot of draft picks. can you argue with what London was able to do at this year's deadline. Stephens is a great add and the type of kid you win with in the playoffs. Vande Sompel has lots of playoff experience and is an elite defender. And Salituro, there's a stroke of genius with bringing him back from the AHL/ECHL where he was struggling as a first year pro. This team is locked and fully loaded for another run. And what did it cost them? They got to keep their best young players (Foudy, Formenton, Bouchard, etc), which can't be said of some other teams who made deals. With London's ability to draft well and turn surplussed assets into draft picks, they'll give those up all day because they know they can get them back. Well done. 
Grade: A+

Owen Sound Attack
In: Cordell James, Chase Campbell, Draft picks (11)
Out: Justin Brack, Draft picks (3, 4)
Analysis: The Attack made the deal that I predicted they would, jettisoning Justin Brack and bringing in Cordell James. James is a perfect fit for this roster as a top faceoff man, penalty killer and solid two-way player. The Chase Campbell pick up at the beginning of December has proven to be an excellent acquisition too. The Attack are playing some pretty phenomenal hockey of late, and I truly believe that behind Michael McNiven, this team could make some noise in the Western Conference. That's why I'm a bit disappointed that they didn't use a bit of a draft pick surplus to go out and pick up a few more players to make that push. When you've got the best goaltender in the league, and he's playing in his final OHL season, I think you need to make sure you really make a run.
Grade: C+

Saginaw Spirit
In: Hayden Davis, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 5)
Out: Mitchell Stephens, Robert Proner, Kiril Maksimov, Draft picks (2, 3)
Analysis: I feel a little bit bad for the Spirit. It's obvious that they were handcuffed by Stephen's no trade clause. Bottom line is...the team has dealt their best player the last two years and not received a young player back. When you see a team like Oshawa deal their players for quality young assets, it's a hard pill to swallow. And sure, the amount of draft picks they got back was fantastic. But this is also a team whose top two picks (Blade Jenkins and Bode Wilde) aren't playing for them this year and are not guaranteed to suit up for the Spirit. And the team's 2015 draft is now looking pretty weak too thanks to those players failing to take a step forward this year (direct correlation to the team's disappointing performance in 2016/17). Speaking of the 2015 draft, the Spirit turned their 2nd rounder Robert Proner into a measly 5th after he demanded a trade. And while I like the Hayden Davis deal (because I like him as a player), they had to give up a lot to get a player that with the right tutelage, Robert Proner could have turned into anyway. IMO, this is a team in a lot of trouble moving forward unless things change and they have some luck with player commitments. 
Grade: D+

Sarnia Sting
In: Theo Calvas, Drake Rymsha, Nick Grima, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 6)
Out: Alex Black, Nikita Korostelev, Draft picks (2, 2, 3, 4, 7)
Analysis: I absolutely love what Sarnia did at this year's deadline. Think of it this way. The Sting turned Korostelev and Black into Nick Grima, Drake Rymsha, two quality draft picks (2nd and 3rd). That's two quality young players who will be impact OHL players for the next two years and two very good picks. Grima is a quality young offensive defender and Rymsha is an underrated player. His speed and two way play are a perfect fit for this line-up. The Sting have positioned themselves to be solid yet again next year and they did it by only moving a few pieces. And I actually think this Sting team is better without Korostelev in the lineup because they can play a more up-tempo game offensively that suits their offensive stars a little bit more.
Grade: A-

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
In: Noah Carroll, Draft picks (2, 3, 3, 7)
Out: Theo Calvas, Liam Hawel, Draft picks (3)
Analysis: I think that the Hounds did extremely well in picking up Noah Carroll. They dealt from a position of strength and picked up future assets AND got better at the same time. Hard to argue with that. That said, I do think that the Hounds missed the boat on trying to improve. They've got a great roster this year. Offensively, I think they can compete with the other super powers of the West (even post deadline). But defensively and in goal, they could be a step behind, even with the acquisition of Carroll. Not utilizing their final OA spot is a make IMO. But, I know the Hounds have prided themselves on building a consistent winner and they've positioned themselves to be just as good next year, if not better. When do they go for it though and really go all in to win that Championship?
Grade: B-

Windsor Spitfires
In: Jeremy Bracco, Adam Laishram, Daniel Robertson, Draft picks (2, 6 8, 8, 13, 14)
Out: Cole Carter, Andrew Burns, Patrick Sanvido, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 4)
Analysis: The Memorial Cup hosts joined the Otters and Knights to load up for the Western Conference playoff showdown. The reality is though, that the Spitfires have been loading up all year, picking up Addison, Knott, Nattinen, and Day. The Bracco deal was a great one because they didn't have to give up some of their best young talent to make it happen. The Laishram pickup is an excellent under the radar one too. He's a gritty competitor. This team has all the talent in the world. But they need to stay healthy AND they need to get more from their best players like Mikhail Sergachev and Logan Brown. 
Grade: B+

Who do you think were this year´s winners and losers?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sunday Top 10 - Overagers Worth Signing (2017)

This is a yearly tradition (take a look at the Sunday Top 10 sidebar for other years). It's time to take a look at the top overagers in the OHL, available to be signed by NHL teams.

None of the players on this list have signed an NHL contract yet, but even if they had, they would still be included. This list intends to rank players according to the likelihood that they continue their career at the professional level. 

Likely half of the players on this list will not end up getting a professional contract and will play in the CIS. It's the nature of the beast. The bottom line is that a few will and many will not (be signed) and those players who do not, will take advantage of their education package while continuing to play a high level of hockey at a Canadian University.

It's important to note that this list does not include overagers who have yet to sign NHL contracts, despite having their draft rights owned by a team (numerous examples this year, like Stephen Desrocher, J.J. Piccinich, Steven Lorentz, etc). This list is for those players who are NHL free agents after going through the draft two or three times (depending on their birth date).

Here's the list:

1. Ryan Mantha - Defenseman - Niagara IceDogs
Spurned by the New York Rangers this summer when they didn't offer him a contract, Mantha returned to the OHL with a chip on his shoulder this year. He's been sensational as the captain for the upstart IceDogs. He's currently just outside the top 5 in defenseman scoring and leads all blueliners in shots by a very large margin (in fact he's second in the entire OHL in shots). He looks like a completely different player this year, quite frankly. Big difference is improved foot speed, which is allowing him to be more of a factor leading the rush and jumping up in the play, where he can use his size to really drive the play. At 6'5, 225lbs, he can be a real tough guy to separate from the puck. Defensively, he's looked good too. He's playing with more intensity in his own end. With his size and the impact he's making at both ends, I'd be surprised if an NHL team doesn't give him a second chance. 

2. Darren Raddysh - Defenseman - Erie Otters
Raddysh has been the model of consistency the last few years for Erie, playing a top 4 role for them and excelling at both ends of the ice. Over the course of the last four seasons, Raddysh is a combined +110. Defensively, he's been a rock since he entered the league, but his offensive game has hit a new level this year, as he's gained more confidence in his ability to lead the breakout and run the point on the powerplay. There's really nothing that he can't do. I think the main reason that team's have shied away from him thus far, despite good production, is the combination of average size (6'1, 200lbs) with average skating ability. He's certainly not a dynamic skater, which could prevent the offense from translating. But I think his defensive game is rock solid and should make him an valuable asset at the next level. He deserves an NHL deal.

3. Jeremy Brodeur - Goaltender - Oshawa Generals
Brodeur has been one of the OHL's top netminders this year, currently 2nd in the league in save percentage and top 5 in wins and goals against average. What a difference a year makes, with Brodeur really emerging as a star for the surprise first place Generals. The one thing I've noticed about Brodeur this year is how much quicker he looks post to post. Making a lot more athletic saves and making things look much easier than he did a year ago. When you factor in the obvious bloodlines, it goes without saying that I'd be surprised if Brodeur isn't playing pro hockey somewhere next year (either on an NHL or AHL deal).

4. Bobby MacIntyre - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Hate to toot my own horn here, but I called his offensive explosion in my preseason previews. I wrote, "A real wild card that I'll throw out there is Bobby MacIntyre in Sault Ste. Marie. He has fit in extremely well in that lineup and they'll be able to score a ton of goals this year. He could be an 80+ point player quite easily." And sure enough, he currently sits 5th in league scoring and is well on his way to that 80+ point plateau. He's long been a guy that I've felt had the talent level to be a top scorer in this league, but he lacked the strength and confidence to extend rushes and play through traffic consistently. Since the trade to the Soo, it's like something has clicked for him and he's been a real force. Brings so much energy to the ice and never gives up on a play. Has a lot of skill with the puck too and creates time and space for linemates with patience and poise. He's definitely undersized, but with the way the pro game is played now, there is a place for guys like MacIntyre. 

5. Kyle Pettit - Forward - Erie Otters
The 2nd player on this list who was an unsigned NHL draft pick this past summer. Pettit was a Vancouver selection in 2014 who they chose not to sign, and rightfully so as he had not shown any growth offensively over his OHL career. But this year (as is often the case for overage players), he looks like a different player. He's visibly stronger on and off the puck, and also looks quicker. Just a big kid (6'4) who seems to have finally grown into his big frame. He's been dynamite on the powerplay, where he's playing the role of net presence and using his size to be a Tomas Holmstrom type of player for the Otters. And he continues to be one of the OHL's top faceoff men (he's up near 60%). Think of him as this year's Jordan Maletta, who managed to earn an NHL deal last year.

6. Medric Mercier - Defenseman - Oshawa Generals
I've long been a fan of Mercier's and since the move to Oshawa, his offensive game has exploded. He's up near the top 10 of defenseman scoring and if he continues to produce like he has, he could be top 5/6 by year's end. He's been a real asset for the Generals on the powerplay, where he's fit in perfectly as the triggerman to Mitchell Vande Sompel's quarterbacking ability. At 6'3 and 215lbs, I've always been impressed with Mercier's mobility. When you've got a big kid with a big shot, mobility, and defensive acumen, he's bound to draw interest from pro teams (be the NHL or AHL). This is especially true if Oshawa can continue their surprise success and go deep in this year's playoffs.

7. Mathieu Henderson - Defenseman - Flint Firebirds
We're just past the halfway point of the year and Henderson has already set a new career high in points. The OHL's 2nd leading scorer among blueliners has most definitely had a breakout campaign in his overage season. Henderson is aggressive leading the attack, using great speed to cut his way up ice and across the blueline. While Henderson isn't huge (6'0), he isn't a pushover in his own end and will battle hard to win puck battles. He also uses his mobility well to defend off the rush, compensating for his lack of reach. I'm not sure he gets a look from an NHL team, but I could see him with an AHL/ECHL deal next year.

8. Hayden Hodgson - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
Big, power forward who has rebounded exceptionally well after a disastrous 2015/16 season that saw him battle injuries and change teams (from Sarnia). He's leading the Spirit in goals by a pretty large margin and has looked like a man among boys at times this year. When he gets going off the rush, he can be really tough to separate from the puck and is very effective on net drives. I don't think he has elite level hands, but he does a great job of using his size to shield the puck and has good enough scoring instincts to find himself in the right place near the crease. His skating is also pretty decent for a power winger. Not sure if he's a true pro prospect, but he could certainly get a look.

9. Jalen Chatfield - Defenseman - Windsor Spitfires
Chatfield is just a solid two-way defender who doesn't have elite size (6'0), but who plays the game hard. He does pretty much everything well, whether it be quarterbacking the powerplay, leading the rush, or laying the body in the defensive end. I suppose the big issue is that he does none of these things at an elite level, which can be the kiss of death when it comes to earning an NHL contract. But I do believe that he has the capability to play at the pro level next year, be it the AHL or ECHL. 

10. Alex Peters - Defenseman - Flint Firebirds
The third former NHL draft pick to crack this list, Peters looks a lot better than he did last year, coming off that knee injury. I thought he looked slow and hesitant at times in 2015/16, which obviously helps to explain why the Dallas Stars chose not to sign Peters this summer. But Peters seems to have regained a lot of mobility and is playing exceptionally well in his own end. He's a tough guy to play against and his leadership qualities can't be overlooked either. At 6'4, and 215lbs, Peters could still get a look from a pro team for next year. 

Honorable Mentions (sorted by position):

Outside of Brodeur, I don't really see any goaltenders that deserve a place on this list. Mississauga's Matthew Mancina has had a very disappointing season, and Hamilton's (after the trade) Dawson Carty is a solid OHL goalie, but not a pro prospect IMO.

The captain in Kitchener, Frank Hora, actually got a taste of pro action to start this year as he signed a tryout contract with Cleveland of the AHL and played 3 games there before heading back to Kitchener. He's a very solid defensive player who also can move the puck. He'd be number 11 on this list. His teammate, Dylan Di Perna has steadily improved every year in the league and is on pace for his best offensive season of his career. He has a new found confidence with the puck to pair with his stout defensive play. Speaking of stout defensive play, Peterborough's Brandon Prophet epitomizes this. The 6'3, 217lbs Brockville native may not bring much in the way of offense, but he's one of the league's premier stay at home defenders. Owen Sound's Santino Centorame and Sarnia's Jeff King are a pair of undersized, but quality two-way defenders. Both play the game hard and Centorame has served as captain of the Attack the last two seasons. Lastly, speaking of captains, Sarnia's Kevin Spinozzi has had an excellent season at both ends and has the size that pro teams will look for (6'2, 200lbs). Fun fact, he hasn't finished a season below +15 since his 16 year old season out of minor midget.

Like the goalie position, I don't know if I see any other forwards worthy of mention on this list. Hamilton's Niki Petti is a slick skating, energy player who does everything for the Bulldogs. He could make a quality checking line player at the next level. Ditto for Barrie's Cordell James. He's a lot like Kyle Pettit in that he's got size and plays hard and smart at both ends of the ice. He also happens to be one of the league's top faceoff men.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Midseason Top 50 for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft

The start of the 2017 calendar year is nearly upon us and that means it is time for me to re-evaluate my rankings for the 2017 Draft. The OHL season is nearly at the half way mark (for most teams) which gives us a great indication of how certain players have developed in their draft season. Many players have stepped up to assume large roles on their club, while others have disappointed and find themselves on the outside looking in.

I think we're really starting to get a good grasp on the type of crop the OHL has to offer this year. It's certainly not high on first round talent. We may only see around 6 OHL players go in the first round, which would be the lowest total since 2007 (when the league only had 3 NHL first rounders). But, I really like the depth and potential outside of that. Quite a few guys who could make excellent 2nd round picks. I could actually see the OHL occupying a third of all picks by the end of the 2nd round. Certainly not unrealistic. 

For those unfamiliar with my lists, I only include first time eligible players. So a guy like Stephen Dhillon isn't listed despite the fact that I'd expect him to receive draft consideration. I do a list of "re-entries" or second/third year eligible players prior to the draft.

And for comparison's sake, here's my preliminary top 50 from October.  

Let's start it off with a change at the top.

1. Owen Tippett - Forward - Mississauga Steelheads
We've got a new number one. Here's why. Tippett's play has been way more consistent the last month and a bit, and his effort level in all three zones has also greatly improved. The last few times I've seen Mississauga play, Tippett has used his size and speed to dominate all three zones and has been the best player on the ice. His shot and release are just so good and are already NHL caliber. I think that the questions surrounding his hockey IQ and vision are legitimate to some degree, because he can struggle at times with his decision making in the offensive end. However, I think even that area of his game has shown growth. I think he's finally starting to put it all together and looks like a legitimate franchise winger. He and Vilardi are definitely going to go back and forth the rest of this year.

2. Gabriel Vilardi - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
Has only played 16 games this year so far because of a knee injury, and most recently an appendectomy. When he's been on the ice, he's been great. But with the way Tippett has played of late, holding on to that top spot would have been tough. Let's be honest, Vilardi will still be number one among OHL players for a lot of people. It's extremely close. It's interesting too, because he's quite the contrast from Tippett. Rangy center with a great head for the game who excels when the game slows down in the offensive end. His vision off the cycle is especially impressive. His skating isn't nearly as dynamic, but he uses his head and size to gain leverage over defenders. I'm extremely curious to see how he performs when he comes back, and how he plays down the stretch and into the Memorial Cup. As I said, these guys are pretty much 1A and 1B for me right now.

3. Nic Hague - Defense - Mississauga Steelheads
His 12 goals are 2nd most in the OHL among defenders. That's an impressive feat for a draft eligible defender (even a late birthday '98). Offensively, he plays the game a lot like Brent Burns. He loves to utilize his big point shot, and he is extremely aggressive in his pinches, staying down low and looking to use his size to drive the net. Defensively, he's an impressive prospect because of his reach and potential physically. One thing I have noticed recently though, is that Hague has had some problems with the forecheck. His footwork in receiving passes in the defensive end could use some work and teams are keying in on this. Because of this, he's been a bit turnover prone. This is something he's going to have to continue to work on. But Hague is a hard worker and a very intelligent kid (defending academic player of the year), which will appeal to scouts.

4. Matthew Strome - Forward - Hamilton Bulldogs
Has slowed down a bit offensively since the start of the season, but so have the rest of the Bulldogs. He remains their most consistent player and a very intriguing prospect. I love his combination of size and hockey sense. He's a big man who really sees the ice well and understands how to play without the puck in the offensive end. The skating concerns are real, but they were with Dylan and Ryan too. I'd actually say that Matthew has improved his skating to the point where he might be the best of the three of them in their draft years. That's impressive considering he was definitely the worst of the three in his OHL draft year (from minor midget). 

5. Nick Suzuki - Forward - Owen Sound Attack
Huge fan of Suzuki as a player. He's going to be a real fan favourite for whatever team ends up drafting him. Never takes a shift off. Gets after it on the forecheck, plays way bigger than his size and just always seems to make the right play. His league leading 4 shorthanded goals this year are no fluke. He's a real pain in the ass to play against. Really, the only thing Suzuki doesn't have going for him is the size you want from a center in today's game. If he had that, we'd be talking about him for the top 5 IMO. 

6. Michael Dipietro - Goaltender - Windsor Spitfires
Dipietro is having one heck of a draft season so far. He leads the league in goals against average, is 2nd in save percentage and 4th in wins. All this despite his team, the Spitfires, going through some serious injury issues to top players this year. At this point, he'd be a serious candidate for first half MVP of the OHL. He doesn't have the ideal size NHL scouts look for in the position these days, but I don't really care. He's so athletic, but his approach is already incredibly refined. It's rare to find him out of position and he covers angles exceptionally well for an average sized goaltender. If he continues to play this well and plays well at the Memorial Cup, it's hard to imagine that he's not a top 50 selection come June.

7. Robert Thomas - Forward - London Knights
Massive riser and with good reason. He's emerged as one of the catalysts for London offensively in the last month or so. You could probably even make a case for him being the team's best player in that run. His speed is such an asset. And he's a very creative and intelligent player with the puck too. The combination of that makes him an incredibly dangerous player off the rush. But he's also a well rounded player who has become an asset in the defensive end and on the PK. I've also really liked him on the powerplay, where he's seen an increase in ice time. So patient with the puck, which is really an asset for his line's puck movement. If he continues to play at this level, he's challenging the likes of Hague and Strome for the 3rd spot from the OHL IMO.

8. Ivan Lodnia - Forward - Erie Otters
Lodnia seems to be a bit of a forgotten man in this draft class right now. But he's been an offensive workhorse for the top team in the OHL, with the 5th highest point per game average among first year draft eligible players. A lot of that likely has to do with his lack of elite stature (5'10) and because he plays the wing and not down the middle. But his skill level with the puck and smarts in the offensive end are incredibly good. And he's battler who is far from a perimeter player. Of note, only one of his 15 goals and 8 of his 32 points have been on the powerplay. If he was getting the time with the man advantage, his stats would be even more impressive.

9. Isaac Ratcliffe - Forward - Guelph Storm
Now the leading scorer in Guelph thanks to a terrific run the last month or so. In his last 12 games, Ratcliffe has 10 goals. At 6'6, that's going to draw a lot of intrigue from NHL scouts. Ratcliffe is a very solid north/south player who's definitely a pretty good skater for a big man. I really like his scoring instincts and his willingness to find his way to the front of the net. That hockey sense is displayed at both ends too, making him a pretty well rounded player. I think he's definitely more likely a complimentary offensive piece at the next level, but I'm sure there are lots of teams salivating over his potential once his 6'6 frame fills out. 
10. Mackenzie Entwistle - Forward - Hamilton Bulldogs
Entwistle slips a bit from my preliminary rankings. The reason for that is a combination of a drop in offensive production and improved play from some other guys rated around him. Entwistle has only one goal in his last 15 games. The rest of his teammates are really struggling right now too though and I think he's been a bit snake bitten. I've seen Hamilton play a few times in that stretch and he's still had some good scoring chances. At the end of the day, Entwistle is still 6'3, can play any forward position, can skate, can kill penalties, and has better hands and scoring potential than some give him credit for. But there's no question his production will need to increase if he wants to get himself back into 1st round consideration.
11. Morgan Frost - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Frost is another guy really rocketing up draft lists. In a lot of ways, he's a similar player to Robert Thomas in London. Average sized, but skilled, smart, and contributing in a multitude of ways for a team right up near the top of the OHL standings. I really like the way Frost operates on the powerplay for the Soo. He opens up a lot of ice due to his patience with the puck and his aggressiveness in attacking lanes, when the time comes for it. Overall decision making is top notch. Seems like he's really gaining confidence in attacking off the rush lately too. Could just be seeing the tip of the iceberg here.
12. Jack Studnicka - Forward - Oshawa Generals
I seem to be higher on Studnicka than others are (considering that the guys I've got ranked behind him are all going to the Top Prospect's Game). His offensive ceiling may not be as high as a guy like Chmelevski or Formenton, but I just see him making a really solid pro hockey player. Certainly not flashy, but you can't overlook the way he's performed for the first place Generals this year. He plays in all situations. He's been good on the draw. He has size. He has a very good head for the game and is an above average playmaker IMO. I've said this a million times, but guys like Studnicka can often be perceived to lack offensive upside just because they're already solid two-way players. Don't see any reason that he can't develop into a Jarrett Stoll type at the next level.

13. Sasha Chmelevski - Forward - Ottawa 67's
Highly skilled offensive player who loves to play up tempo, using his speed to cut through the middle of the ice. His hands and ability to create are definitely top notch and will only get better as he gets stronger on the puck. That said, he drops a bit for me because I think he needs to really improve his play away from the puck. Too often he floats around, rather than engaging in the backcheck or in scrums along the wall and he needs to use his speed to be more aggressive in attacking the net. The production has continued to be there, but I see a lot of players ranked around him that have similar skill sets but bring more to the table in other areas.
14. Adam Ruzicka - Forward - Sarnia Sting
Got off to a really slow start to the year, but that's not uncommon for first year Imports. Moving away from home, and playing in a new league can be quite an adjustment. The last month or so, Ruzicka is showing signs that he's finally getting comfortable. He's been a lot more aggressive with and without the puck, looking to utilize his size to control play in the offensive zone. He's a pretty tough customer to separate from the puck in the corners and he's proven to be very adept at coming off the wall to create scoring chances. Good shot and release that should profile him as a goal scorer moving forward. Hopefully he keeps it up.
15. Alex Formenton - Forward - London Knights
I'm slowly getting on the Formenton train, although I'm obviously still not on it as much as others are. His speed is a major asset. He might just be one of the quickest players in the OHL. I've seen quite a few defenders have trouble with him driving wide of late, as he gains more confidence in attacking with the puck. Like the overall energy level without the puck too. He can be a major factor on the forecheck with that speed. At this point, I hesitate to rank him higher still because I don't feel like I've got a good grasp of his offensive potential for the next level. Given his lack of ice time, is he this year's Christian Dvorak?
16. Jason Robertson - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Really like this player, even if he has some short comings. Size and skill from the wing. His skating could use some work, but I think it has also been overblown a bit. His top speed isn't bad. It's his start ups that are a bit sluggish. Once he gets going though, he can be really tough to stop because he protects the puck really well. I really like his aggressiveness in driving the net and his hands in close. Definitely a potential goal scorer at the next level. His two-way play could become a bit more consistent, as could his play without the puck (in general), but I think that as his skating improves, he will improve in this area. Overall, I just like his potential to develop into a pro style power winger who can play a solid north/south game.
17. Conor Timmins - Defense - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
This is a guy who is really growing on me. He's passed Paquette, Samorukov and Phillips as the 2nd best defender available behind Hague for me. The late '98 blueliner is only average sized (6'1), but he's extremely effective at both ends of the ice. Love the intensity he plays with in the defensive end. Really loves giving opposing forwards the gears in the corners and in front of the net. Like how he runs the point of the powerplay too. Walks the line well and does a good job getting his point shot through to the net. Also makes good decisions with the puck exiting the zone. Like I said, just a really solid two-way defender. Think an Alec Martinez type.
18. Jacob Paquette - Defense - Kingston Frontenacs
The offense hasn't really been there this season (he got a late start to the year recovering from an UBI), but I still think he's a quality NHL prospect. Defensively, he's been an absolute stud. He's got size, mobility, smarts, and he plays aggressively. Paquette is such a tough guy to get around off the rush. All that points to him having the potential to be a real lock down defender at the next level. There were times last year (as a rookie) that he showed offensive potential as a puck mover, but that hasn't really been the case this year. Remains to be seen how much he's got there. If he can find confidence in his offensive game in the 2nd half, he'll rocket up my list again, but until then, I see him more as a solid 2nd rounder.
19. Dmitri Samorukov - Defense - Guelph Storm
Samorukov has been really up and down for me this year. Was absolutely fantastic the first few times I saw him play. Then he was downright awful the next couple. I saw Guelph again last week and he looked really good again. Just depends what night you catch this guy on. Consistency issues are certainly not uncommon for a rookie import so I think patience is critical. When he's on, Samorukov looks like a world class two-way defender who does a great job playing the body to separate his man from the puck, and leading the rush to kick start the offense. But when he's off, he can be turnover prone and gets caught running around in the defensive end. One thing he really needs to improve on is his ability to get his point shot through to the net on the powerplay. He has an absolute howitzer, but he misses wide way too often. Love the potential though, but like Paquette, he looks more like a solid 2nd/3rd rounder.
20. Nate Schnarr - Forward - Guelph Storm
Has missed the last month with a shoulder injury, but should return following the Xmas break, or at least shortly after the new year. The only concern being that this shoulder injury doesn't become nagging or effect his performance offensively moving forward. An OHL rookie, Schnarr has been inconsistent in my viewings of Guelph. Ultimately, I think it comes down to a strength thing. Schnarr is lanky at 6'3, 180lbs and I think that's preventing him from making a consistent impact. But the potential is super high as a puck protection/possession type of center who can control play in all three zones and be an offensive workhorse. Definitely a long term project, but one that could pay off.
21. Greg Meireles - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
An undersized, but scrappy center (who I think might be better suited for the wing at the next level), Meireles has had a pretty successful first season in the OHL. He plays with a lot of energy, using his speed and tenacity to be disruptive on the forecheck and push the pace of attack. He's taken a bit of a hit on my midterm rankings, but I think a lot of that has to do other players around him elevating their play. I also have found myself wondering about his offensive upside at the NHL level. And if he's being considered an energy 3rd line type of player, is he undersized for that role? Lots of question marks that are sure to make Meireles a polarizing prospect come June.

22. Markus Phillips - Defense - Owen Sound Attack
Phillips is a stocky, two way defender who brings a ton of leadership potential to the ice. I really like his positioning in the defensive end. You rarely see him get beat, despite his lack of reach. Defends a lot like a Travis Dermott, using a low center of gravity and bravado to keep guys honest. I don't see him as, as natural an offensive player as Dermott though. His decision making when jumping up into the rush isn't great and he's at his best when he's making safer plays with the puck. That can certainly improve, but I don't know how that will translate moving forward. Definitely a future potential captain though and that will go a long way to ensuring he's a top 100 pick.

23. Eemeli Rasanen - Defense - Kingston Frontenacs
Rasanen is a guy that's REALLY growing on me as a prospect (no pun intended, thanks to his 6'6 frame). Saw him at the beginning of the year a bunch and thought he looked a bit awkward out there. But I've seen Kingston a few times lately and he's improved a lot already. Love how aggressive he is in using his size to crush the rush defensively. He really seems to revel in putting guys on their asses. And he's doing a better job getting the puck out of his own end and is showing some pretty decent mobility on the attack. When all is said and done, it wouldn't surprise me at all if he's the 2nd OHL defender off the board come June.

24. Zach Gallant - Forward - Peterborough Petes
The Peterborough Petes are absolutely rolling lately, winning 8 in a row. One of the main reasons for that has been the improved play of former 5th overall priority selection, Zach Gallant. He's been getting better and better every month and during that 8 game win streak, he's got 11 points. Gallant plays the game hard and finally seems to be gaining confidence in his offensive game, to be more of a catalyst than a bystander. A center with size who could be a solid two-way contributor, if Gallant keeps up this level of play, he's going to be much higher on this list come the end of the season.
25. Austen Keating - Forward - Ottawa 67's
Keating is definitely a polarizing prospect at this point of the season. Some really like him and he'd be a heck of a lot higher than 25th on their lists. Others (like NHL CSS) seem to see him as more of a mid round prospect. I suppose I'm in the middle here. I like Keating's hockey sense and ability to play without the puck. He's just a really smart player who works hard out there and has a pretty significant amount of skill. He can also slide pretty much anywhere in your lineup. But, he's an average sized forward who lacks game breaking speed. Think of him as this year's Taylor Raddysh. I know what you're saying, look at how well Raddysh is doing this year. Skating can be improved. Point is...these are the types of guys who can struggle to find a role in the NHL.
26. Jonah Gadjovich - Forward - Owen Sound Attack
Gadjovich is criminally underrated for the draft right now IMO. Yes, he's a late '98. And yes, he got off to a miserable start to the year. But, he's been absolutely fantastic the last month or so. Since Remembrance Day (15 games), he's got 11 goals. In that span, he has two games where he registered 12 shots on net! At 6'2, 200lbs, with good hands and a good head for the game in the offensive end, Gadjovich has the potential to be a dominating force. Skating is only average, but it hasn't stopped him from taking over games of late. His stock has to be on the rise (especially if there were any scouts in the building on those 12 shot nights).
27. Kaden Fulcher - Goaltender - Hamilton Bulldogs
After a hot start, Fulcher definitely hasn't been great of late. Hamilton has been down in the dumps and Fulcher has to take some of the blame for that. During that stretch, he's been prone to giving up some bad goals, where the focus and confidence seems to be lacking. But, the problem is, for every bad goal he gives up, he makes an incredible athletic save and dominates for periods at a time. He has all the tools that NHL teams look for in potential goaltenders, but he just can't seem to put it all together right now. Continued coaching could iron out some of those issues, and that should still make him a potentially attractive option for someone come June. Few goalies in the OHL are as quick, post to post, as Fulcher.
28. Macauley Carson - Forward - Sudbury Wolves
Carson is definitely an interesting prospect for the Wolves. One of those coaches' dreams kind of players. He's already wearing an "A" and he plays the game very hard. Big kid who really gets after it on the forecheck, along the wall, and in front of the net. He's got good hands and his skating and play with the puck continues to improve. This is especially true considering he's been playing center for the better part of the last couple months (although I think he most definitely profiles as a winger moving forward). Just a really solid player who continues to produce offensively and has really put himself on the scouting map for June.
29. Ben Jones - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
Another guy who seems to really have caused a split among scouts so far this season. Some (like Redline) really like him. Others, (like NHL CSS), don't seem to have him on the draft radar. I'm definitely much closer to the fan side, and that dates back to his minor midget days too. There are definitely consistency issues, but I think a lot of that has to do with a lack of strength, and the fact that he plays on a very young team. I just think that once he fills out, Jones could be a very good two-way center who can use his speed to be a solid playmaker and energy guy. 
30. Adam Thilander - Defense - North Bay Battalion
Late '98 import who came into the season as a player receiving early consideration for the first round. But his production has been a bit disappointing thus far. As mentioned with Ruzicka, it can take import players some time to make adjustments to playing on the smaller ice (and being away from home in a new country). I think the biggest problem I have right now when it comes to evaluating Thilander is, I just don't know what to make of his NHL potential and future role at the next level. Not sure he's naturally gifted enough offensively to be a powerplay guy and offensive catalyst. And he doesn't have the ideal size or make-up of a "shutdown" guy. In a way, he's kind of vanilla. Makes smart plays with the puck, seems to make good reads in the defensive end and could be generally classified as a "solid" two-way defender. But the physical skills aren't sexy and he's not a guy who'll blow you away when you watch him.
31. Hayden Davis - Defense - Niagara IceDogs
I've liked his play of late as he's making the simple play and not trying to force things offensively. Big kid with solid mobility who plays the game hard in his own end. If the offensive skills improve, he could be a top 90 selection.
32. Brady Lyle - Defense - North Bay Battalion
Thought long and hard about ranking him ahead of Thilander. I think the potential is definitely higher than Thilander. Shows flashes of being a very good two-way defender (and solid PP QB), but is still very raw IMO. Certainly working with the right coach.
33. Ryan McGregor - Forward - Sarnia Sting
Speedy, energy winger who plays a solid North/South game for the Sting. Has lots of potential as a goal scorer as he fills out and is able to be more of a catalyst than a complimentary finisher.
34. Dylan Seitz - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
Consistency is the name of the game for the OHL rookie. One game he looks great, then the next 3-4 he's pretty invisible. When he's on, he contributes in a lot of different ways and has some real sand paper to his game. Could be a mid round gem.
35. Noel Hoefenmayer - Defense - Ottawa 67's
Thought he looked great early in the season when he was being aggressive offensively. But lately, he seems hesitant to commit to taking chances and it's caused a decrease in production. Not big enough or strong enough defensively yet to have a ton of value when he's not producing offensively.
36. Albert Michnac - Forward - Guelph Storm
The stats don't jump out at you, but if you watch Guelph play, you'll no doubt notice #20 for the Storm. Like a little water bug out there, darting in and out of traffic. Type of guy I could really see producing once he gains confidence in his ability to play with the puck at this level.
37. Linus Nyman - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Hard to truly ignore a guy leading OHL rookies with 16 goals at the holiday break. He's undersized, but I like his fearlessness in attacking high traffic areas and finding scoring lanes. High upside, but I wish he was a little quicker. Certainly not slow, but for his size, he's not elite IMO.
38. Cole Coskey - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
Playing better of late after a slow start. I think he's definitely a good NHL prospect and the best draft eligible guy on Saginaw. I've always liked his vision and playmaking ability from the wing. Just needs to play with more consistency, like the rest of his team.
39. Daniil Vertiy - Forward - North Bay Battalion
Had extremely high hopes for Vertiy coming into this season, but man did he struggle out of the gate. 2 goals in his first 24 games. But he's been way better lately (6 in his last 8) and seems to be turning a corner. Stocky winger who drives the net well and has good hands in close.
40. Maksim Sushko - Forward - Owen Sound Attack
Has missed some time with injury and with Belarus at the Division 1A World Juniors (where he helped them win gold), but curious to see how he plays upon returning. Winger with skill who has played in all situations for the Attack. Impressive when looking to drive the net.
41. Tom Hedberg - Defense - Barrie Colts
Like Thilander, Hedberg entered the year with some draft hype. But he's struggled at times for a rebuilding Barrie team. Offensive skill set is good, but he's struggled to cope defensively. One of the youngest players eligible for 2017 though.
42. Kyle Keyser - Goaltender - Oshawa Generals
Looks like a solid mid-round option at this point. Lots of athleticism, but has a tendency to over commit and give out some big rebounds. Goalie of the future in Oshawa and well worth what they gave up to acquire him from Flint.
43. Matthew Villalta - Goaltender - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Who? An undrafted free agent find by the Hounds who has emerged to push Joseph Raaymakers for playing time. Admittedly have only seen one of his starts so far this year, but was impressed by his composure and positioning. Still going through a feeling out process.
44. Jacob McGrath - Goaltender - Sudbury Wolves
This year's Dylan Wells IMO. McGrath was a guy who I thought would challenge for the 2nd round this year, but he's really struggled to put everything together. Has given up some real stinkers. Or he's posted a 44 save shutout. No biggie. Point is, everything is there but consistent performance. 
45. Nick Grima - Defense - Peterborough Petes
Not the biggest guy, but I've been impressed with his decision making offensively. I think he's got a lot of potential as a powerplay QB and puck carrier. Doesn't hurt you defensively either, although could stand to play a little tougher in his own end.
46. Cole Fraser - Defense - Peterborough Petes
A guy who might just be scratching the surface of his potential. Great size on the backend and he's really starting to gain confidence in his ability to push people around at this level. Puckhandling ability getting better too. A prospect trending upwards.
47. Cole Purboo - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
First year player who continues to catch my eye. Has been good when asked to fill in on a scoring line. Big body who excels at driving the net and demonstrates good hands to finish off plays. A complimentary piece, but intriguing because of his size.
48. Liam Hawel - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
This year's Tim Gettinger for the Hounds. Huge kid (6'5) with a lot of potential, but just doesn't play hard enough on every shift. Would love to see him use his size more. Has been better lately though IMO.
49. Reagan O'Grady - Defense - Sudbury Wolves
Not sure how much higher he'll get on my list by season's end. What you see is what you get IMO. But he'll be an NHL draft pick (also IMO). Good size, mobility and defensive acumen.
50. Elijah Roberts - Defense - Kitchener Rangers 
Has fallen pretty far down my list after a great rookie season and Hlinka performance. Big thing holding him back is his lack of shot. Undersized defender who is starting to run the risk of falling off this list, despite how much I've liked him at times.

Honorable Mentions:
Oliver Castleman & Mathew Philip - Forwards - Niagara IceDogs
Wanted to squeeze these two guys in, but just couldn't find the room. Both have done great things as OHL rookies for the Dogs this year. They play hard with, and without the puck and definitely have skill. Just don't know what type of players they'd make for the next level.