Sunday, December 3, 2017

Sunday Top 10 - Under the Radar Draft Eligibles for 2018


We're over a third of the way into the current OHL season. We've seen a lot of very strong performances from draft eligible players thus far, and we're likely to see many more as we approach the second half. The Preliminary Media/Scout Poll was recently released and that should give everyone a good idea of the top players that the OHL has to offer for 2018. But what about those who are flying under the radar thus far? The amount of depth that the OHL has to offer for this year remains to be seen. The amount of talent available from across the CHL does seem to be down this year. But that won't mean that the OHL won't see their share of players taken in the first three rounds. This list aims to highlight a few of the guys who are bound to see their stock rise should they continue their high level of play.

Here are 10 guys (plus some HM's) that you should be keeping your eye on through the 2nd half (in alphabetical order):

Kody Clark - Ottawa 67's
Clark, the son of former Leafs' great Wendel, is this year's Jonah Gadjovich among the draft crop. He's a late '99 born forward who has improved nearly every facet of his game. Kody has been extremely clutch for Ottawa this year, with 4 game winning goals already. And his 10 goals are third on the team and put him on pace for nearly 30 on the year. The 6'1, 180lbs winger plays a hard nosed, North/South game and he's got great hands in close and improving goal scoring instincts. With his bloodlines, don't be surprised if he ends up a top 75 pick come June, especially if he keeps scoring.

Riley Damiani - Kitchener Rangers
Production for this undersized (at 5'10) second year forward has been inconsistent this year, but there's no question the potential Damiani possesses to be an NHL player. With great speed and a big heart, he excels in all situations for the Rangers and is arguably their top penalty killer. He started the year off exceptionally well but will likely continue to slide down the depth chart 5 on 5 as Kitchener adds for a playoff run. As Damiani adds strength, he'll be an even more effective all around player in the future. He's the type of guy that gets drafted in the mid rounds and then upon reflection, we all say, "how did this guy go so late?"

Aidan Dudas - Owen Sound Attack
Speaking of undersized spark plugs, meet Owen Sound's Aidan Dudas. The 5'8 forward is often a force to be reckoned with because of how hard he works at both ends of the ice. He's been really the only consistent source of secondary offense for the Attack this year (behind the Suzuki/Gadjovich/Hancock line) and currently sits second on the team with 14 goals. The question is, how far has the NHL scouting community come when debating the potential of drafting a 5'8 forward who plays a high energy over pure skill, kind of game? That's not to say that Dudas is void of skill. Far from it. But he's not Alex Debrincat.

Nathan Dunkley - Kingston Frontenacs
Ultra-competitive center who plays the game hard at both ends of the ice. He battled some injury issues to start the year but has been on fire of late with 22 points in his last 14 games since the start of November. Dunkley is a multi-faceted player as he uses his speed to push the pace off the rush, but is also a terrific player along the wall. Certainly not common to refer to a player under 6'0 as a power forward, but Dunkley definitely is IMO. His physical game continues to grow too. Kind of reminds of Scott Laughton, but with slightly better wheels. If the production continues at this pace, he'll start to draw consideration for the late first/early second.

Caleb Everett - Saginaw Spirit
Saginaw has been one of the hottest teams in the league of late and Everett is playing a key role as an OHL rookie. Everett has potential as a two-way defender at the next level with size (6'2, 185lbs) and mobility. He's producing offensively 5 on 5 (seeing limited powerplay action), by looking to be aggressive off the rush and is showing more offensive skill than I had heard he possessed. Defensively, he's still a bit raw (can chase the play, get caught flat footed), but I think with more experience, he'll greatly improve at this level. Was billed as a top notch shut down defender at the midget level, so you have to like the potential he shows at both ends. 

Cam Hillis - Guelph Storm
Hillis, one of the most hyped rookies coming into the OHL season, started quite slowly as he adjusted from playing Prep hockey. But he's been on fire lately (17 points in his last 14) and has been the best forward on Guelph this year; a team that has several high NHL draft picks. Hillis' speed and overall skating ability is extremely noticeable in the offensive end. He buzzes around, constantly working to create plays and he's aggressive despite being undersized (5'11, 165lbs). This guy has outstanding offensive potential for the next level with top notch hands and instincts to go with that speed. If only Guelph could find some consistency as a team. Another guy who could be a late first/early 2nd round candidate come June.

Blade Jenkins - Saginaw Spirit
As mentioned, the Spirit are on fire lately and outside of Mason Kohn, the one guy most directly responsible might be Blade Jenkins. Took him 9 games to score his first OHL goal, but since then he hasn't stopped scoring (with 9 goals in November and already a three point night in December). Part of that comes with a shift to wing, IMO, which has helped to simplify the game for Jenkins. Drive the net hard, put the puck on net, work the wall. Does a great job protecting the puck as he pushes towards the goal. While his skating might only be average, his size and goal scoring potential make him a candidate to be pick in the first couple of rounds in 2018.

Alec Regula - London Knights
Regula is an OHL rookie who is really gaining steam in the scouting community. He played a depth role for a really strong USHL team last year in Chicago (who won the Clark Cup) and is really starting to look comfortable in the OHL the last month or so. He's now playing a ton for the Knights, suiting up alongside Evan Bouchard on the top pairing. Regula has a lot going for him. He's 6'4 and moves very well. He's got excellent acceleration and is gaining confidence in using this to lead the rush. There have a been a couple times lately where I mistook him for Bouchard. Regula also shows well defensively and is a solid stick defender who seems to really process the game well. His positioning and reads are really improving. Lastly, he's one of the youngest players available this year. Don't be surprised if this guy is one of the top 5 OHL defenders taken in June. Great potential at both ends.

Carter Robertson - Ottawa 67's
Since returning from a lower body injury, the offensive production hasn't really been there for Robertson. But that's not to say he hasn't been playing well. In fact, I've been impressed with the improvement to his defensive game. Plus/Minus isn't a stat I put a ton of weight behind, but you can't ignore the fact that Robertson is the only 67 defender with a positive +/-. And he's +7 to boot. His skating ability and hockey sense make him a potential great player in his own end, especially if he continues to show progression in his physical intensity. He's making way better decisions with the puck this year too. Is only now starting to see regular ice time (instead of as a rotating 7th) and I suspect that as the season goes on, we'll see him become more comfortable taking risks offensively.

Tyler Tucker - Barrie Colts
Love this player and I'm just waiting for the rest of the scouting community to join the club. At least he finally got a grade from NHL Central Scouting. The Barrie Colts have been the surprise of the OHL this year and Tucker has been a big reason for that. This guy is tough as nails to play against. Easily one of the hardest hitting players in the OHL. And for a throwback, physical type, his puck management and offensive skill set is actually quite decent. His skating will need to continue to evolve and he's still a bit raw overall. But he's a legit NHL prospect IMO and as long as Barrie keeps up their strong play, he should only increase his draft stock.

Honorable Mentions:

Sam Bitten - Ottawa 67's
The younger brother of Hamilton's Will Bitten, Sam is a similar player in that he relies on his speed and skating ability to be a factor offensively. He's been getting better and better as the season has gone on. Not quite sure he has the creativity and puck skill that Will does, but he's also a few inches bigger. As we advance past the halfway mark, Bitten looks like a prospect about to really breakout.

Damien Giroux - Saginaw Spirit
Undersized at 5'10 and lacking dynamic skating ability, it's no surprise that Damien Giroux hasn't received a ton of respect for this year's draft. But you can't argue with the fact that this guy has been Saginaw's most consistent offensive performer this year. Watch him play and you can see how smart he is and that's what drives his production. Worth consideration for sure from the mid rounds on.

Mitchell Hoelscher - Ottawa 67's
Super hard working forward who is excelling in a depth role for the 67's. The offensive numbers don't jump out at you, but he's always noticeable because of his play away from the puck and on the penalty kill. Will he earn more ice time eventually and become more of a factor on the score sheet? A potential late round candidate who could surprise.

Merrick Rippon - Mississauga Steelheads
Highly touted defender who the Steelheads paid a heavy price for this offseason (from Kitchener). Started slowly but has really started to look good the last few weeks. Starting to take charge at both ends and is showing an aggressiveness that he lacked early on (as he was adjusting from the CCHL). Interested to see how his offensive game continues to evolve as I've been more impressed with him defensively so far.

Bonus - Five Re-Entry Candidates to Watch (in alphabetical order):

Jakob Brahaney- Kingston Frontenacs
Was a highly touted defensive prospect who really struggled last year in his first full OHL year. Brahaney suited up at the World Under 17's and was invited to the Ivan Hlinka camp last year, but we never saw his talent blossom in his draft year. But this year he looks like a totally different player. Showing a ton of confidence at both ends and his +23 is one of the league's best.

Sean Durzi - Owen Sound Attack
An obvious inclusion, even if his lead on the defenseman scoring race is losing ground to Merkley and Bouchard. Once a player used as a forward by the Attack, Durzi has now developed into one of the OHL's elite puck movers. The talent around him obviously helps, but he's looked great running the point of the powerplay and his mobility will help him at the next level.

Joey Keane - Barrie Colts
The top rated re-entry this year, if you ask me (yes over Durzi). This guy is a legit defensive prospect for the next level. Size, mobility, physicality and offensive skill. Keane's emergence as a legit top pairing defender has to be considered one of the main reasons for Barrie's success so far. I wouldn't hesitate to look at him as a potential draft pick starting in the 2nd or 3rd round.
 

Hugo Leufvenius - Sarnia Sting
Hulking Import from Sweden who is having an excellent rookie season for the Sting. Plays a simple North/South game and his skating will need to improve, but you can't underestimate the impact that a 6'3, 225lbs winger with an offensive touch can have. Looks completely comfortable on the smaller ice and he's been producing without playing with the likes of Kyrou or Ruzicka.

Albert Michnac - Mississauga Steelheads
If you recall, I had Michnac ranked pretty highly for the draft last year after he started strong in Guelph. But he really fizzled down the stretch and fell out of favor with the Storm. The Steelheads came calling and Michnac has been a godsend. Kept them afloat while some of their bigger names were out or away in the NHL. Michnac brings a ton of energy and offensive talent to the ice. Just needs to keep playing well right through to the end of the year to stay in the spotlight.

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):

Justin Brazeau - North Bay Battalion
Cole Coskey - Saginaw Spirit
Kevin Hancock - Owen Sound Attack
Brady Lyle - Owen Sound Attack
Anthony Popovich - Guelph Storm
Joseph Raaymakers - London Knights
Jason Willms - Barrie Colts


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Preliminary Media/Scout Poll for 2018

It's time for the first consensus media/scout poll for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. And one thing is certain, we have a consensus number one. Andrei Svechnikov was the top ranked player by every single contributor. And that should come as no surprise as there appears to be quite the gap between Svechnikov and the next ranked OHL player (who isn't even guaranteed to be a lottery selection at this point). Because of that, the 2nd and 3rd ranked OHL players for 2018 are different depending on who you ask. 6 different players received multiple top 3 rankings on this list; those being Ryan Merkley, Akil Thomas, Evan Bouchard, Serron Noel, Ryan McLeod, & Barrett Hayton. Who emerges (if anyone) from that group as the obvious 2nd ranked player remains to be seen and will be one of the draft's biggest question marks as we head into June. In fact, the lack of top end Canadian talent available has been a story that the mainstream media has been running with the last few months. I still have faith that a few of these guys emerge as potential top 10 picks.

For those unfamiliar with how this works, I poll many of the OHL's brightest minds; those who cover the league incredibly well and know the OHL inside, and out. These contributors supply me with their top 10 available players from the OHL, in addition to some comments. I then put it all together and provide you with a cumulative list. Call it "the consensus."

As always, this list involves contributions from a rather colourful cast of characters. Also added two OHL Scouts to the contributor list this year (although both will obviously remain anonymous). Contributing their rankings and thoughts to this preliminary list for 2018 were:

Corey Pronman - NHL Prospects Writer for TheAthletic (@coreypronman)
Dominic Tiano - Writer for The OHL Writers (@dominictiano)
Dylan Galloway - OHL Scout for Future Considerations (@dylangalloway_)
Peter Kneulman - Provides OHL coverage at OHL Writer (@PeterKneulman)
Levi Hill - OHL Scout for ISS Hockey (@HillHockeyScout)
Mike Morreale - Staff writer for NHL.com (@mikemorrealeNHL)
Anthony Mauro - Director/Founder of Draft Buzz Hockey(@draftbuzzhockey)
Ryan Kennedy - Associate Senior Writer for The Hockey News(@THNRyanKennedy)

Peter Harling - Managing Editor of Dobber Prospects (@pharling) 

Mark Seidel - Scouting Director for NACS Hockey (@MarkSeidel
Dan Stewart - Director of Scouting for Future Considerations (@StewartFC)
Reed Duthie - Play by Play voice of the Hamilton Bulldogs (@rcduthie)

Scott Wheeler - NHL Prospects Writer for TheAthletic (@scottcwheeler)
Scott Crawford - OHL scout for McKeens Hockey (@Crawford1Scott)  
Steve Kournianos - Founder of The Draft Analyst(@TheDraftAnalyst
Mark Scheig - OHL writer for The Hockey Writers (@THWMark)

Todd Warriner - CHL analyst for Sportsnet, Colour analyst for the Windsor Spitfires (@Todd_Warriner) 
Chris Peters - NHL Prospects Writer for ESPN (@chrismpeters)
Mark McKelvie - Play by Play voice of the Owen Sound Attack (@Mark14McKelvie)

Anonymous OHL Scout #1
Anonymous OHL Scout #2
 
and of course...myself (@BrockOtten 


Here's the List: 

1. Andrei Svechnikov - Forward - Barrie Colts
Total Votes: 22
High/Low Ranking: 1st (22x)
Comments: 
"If there's one player right now who can step into an NHL lineup it would probably be Svechnikov. He'll miss a few months with a hand injury, but his shot is so powerful. All he has to do is drop the shoulder and turn it on because he's so tough to stop. He has great size, too, at 6-2, 186." - Mike Morreale

"Everyone else is going to talk about how impressive he is offensively. And they should. Svechnikov is a specimen. But I want to talk about how well rounded his game is. As I've mentioned on social media and in my own preliminary draft ranking, I couldn't believe how good Svechnikov was defensively. This guy is an absolute horse on the backcheck who puts just as much effort into working without the puck in his own end, as he does with it in the offensive end. I haven't seen enough of the likes of Adam Boqvist, but I have a hard time believing that Svechnikov isn't the 2nd best player in this draft behind Rasmus Dahlin. He could play in the NHL right now." - Brock Otten

"The book was already out on Svechnikov before stepping onto OHL ice and he has come as advertised and then some. He’s a dynamic offensive threat every time he steps onto the ice. He can seemingly make things happen when it appears there is nothing there. An excellent skater who can control and protect the puck with superb playmaking abilities. If there is nothing there, he can drive straight to the net. He’s willing to battle along the walls and in the dirty areas. What has surprised me is his defensive game. His injury, for now, prevents people who haven’t watched enough of his play from noticing, but in the d-zone he is rarely out of place, keeps his gaps close and always has his stick in lanes. Prior to his injury, I think he was probably the strongest Colt on the backcheck." - Dominic Tiano

"An NHL Director of Scouting called Svechnikov “a Nikita Kucherov skill-set in an Alex Ovechkin’s body”, but there is more to this kid than even that intriguing summary of skills. Yes, he is a big strong kid with a lethal shot, who plays in the greasy areas of the rink but he also has some impressive and underappreciated playmaking abilities to boot. Add to the fact that he is not coasting around looking for his next offensive meal but also coming back hard and breaking up plays defensively, this talented young Russian is likely the OHL’s only top five talent in this draft class. And there does not look like there is anyone in the OHL that could usurp him from this top billing." - Dan Stewart

"Svechnikov is the total package offensively. He has good puck skills, a tremendous shot and he has some power in his game. His ability to drive through defenders and get to the net is one of the things that separates him in this class. He is willing to work for his goals." - Anonymous

“High end skill with a power to his game. There hasn't been a prospect with as much pure goal scoring power from the wing as him in years. Skating is a bit awkward, but he has breakaway speed and can create offence at a high pace. Size, skill and speed....what more do you want." - Levi Hill

2. Ryan McLeod - Forward - Mississauga Steelheads
Total Votes: 22
High/Low Ranking: 2nd (5x)/10th (1x)
Comments:
"When the Steelheads were dead at the start of the year, McLeod still looked good. His ability to create offense is very impressive and has been dating back to last season’s playoffs, where he was a real difference-maker." - Ryan Kennedy

"Like London’s Bouchard, the younger McLeod is a late 99 which puts him in the 2017 Draft Class and like Bouchard, Ryan McLeod has used it to his utmost advantage. Now 6’2’’ & 190lbs. the Mississauga center has pro size right now and is a threat in all three facets of the game , ES, PP & PK. Prowess in the faceoff dot combined with natural skill and high end hockey IQ make Ryan McLeod a likely sure thing to skate in the NHL. Obviously a threat in the offensive zone, McLeod is very underrated behind his own blueline and away from the puck, his abilities on the PK to use his stick and in defensive coverage to edge out opposition isn’t talked about enough." - Reed Duthie

"Has really impressed me with where he has taken his game. Just missing the cut-off date for the 2017 Draft was a good thing for him. He is a strong skater that pushes defencemen back when he is maneuvering down the wing. Seems to create plenty of space and is excellent distributor. Likes to drive     the net and doesn’t hold back from getting into tight spaces. Strong on faceoffs. Doesn’t have much physicality to his game, but you never worry about a lack of effort or interest from him." - Mark McKelvie

"The Steelheads’ core has not been what it was last year, but he has remained a dominant threat and he’s finally starting to shoot more, which scouts have been waiting for for almost three years now. Like Bouchard, McLeod is another older player who is just beginning to blossom. He’s already got a number of translatable NHL skills, mainly his skating. Once he adds another dynamic or two he should be able to transition to the next level fairly smoothly." - Scott Wheeler

"This strong skating center could be even faster skater than his fleet-footed brother, New Jersey first rounder Michael McLeod. Ryan has quick feet with the hands and head to match. He displays creative vision and puck distribution skills to go along with a strong shot and impressive hockey IQ. Not many holes in his highly effective two-way game but in my opinion his NHL offensive upside is the only question. Still some very strong second line center potential is where I project his pro upside." - Dan Stewart 

3. Ryan Merkley - Defense - Guelph Storm
Total Votes: 21
High/Low Ranking: 2nd (8x)/Outside the Top 10 (1x)
Comments:
"Merkley is among the elites when it comes to skill and vision. He makes so many plays and is exciting to watch. But every time someone raves about Merkley’s offensive talent, I’ll hear a “but” or “however” from scouts (and feel the same way myself). I don’t think Merkley has to be a defensive stalwart to succeed, but more attention to detail and harder work in his own zone will make a lot of difference." - Anonymous

"One of the draft’s most mesmerizing prospects with the puck on his stick, but also a maddening example of mismanagement without it. Merkley’s efforts to improve shortcomings below his own blue line can’t seem to pass the eye test, but his skating, vision and creativity more than make up for it. Bottom line – Merkley at this stage is an insomnia-inducing prospect who will either exploit the NHL’s shift towards finesse and skill, or get stapled to the bench by a coach who won’t stand for his defensive-zone follies." - Steve Kournianos

"The offensive skill is undeniable, but Merkley still has to prove he can play consistently at the defensive end. He's improved in that regard to a point where he could go in the top-10 overall. He could be this season's Timothy Liljegren." - Mark Scheig

"After Rasmus Dahlin, Merkley is a contender for the second most talented D prospect in this class. He’s doing incredible things offensively on a Guelph team that offers him no help. There’s no question he still has work to do on his game defensively, but Merkley is an A+ skater with game-breaking ability as a carrier and handler." - Scott Wheeler

"Look, there's a reason why pretty much every contributor to this article used the word "polarizing" when describing Merkley (or at least a synonym). For all his offensive talents, his defensive shortcomings and overall attitude on the ice hasn't improved a whole lot over the last 15 months. Too easily frustrated by happenings on the ice and it carries over to his play, such as forcing rushes, or pouting and floating after turnovers. I will say one thing though, I don't agree with the comparisons to Ryan Murphy. I think that they are different players offensively. Merkley possesses better vision in the offensive end and it allows him to be a more dynamic player. Murphy relied on his skating ability and hands, but I think his lack of elite vision and poise really prevented him from being an NHL player. Merkley can use his speed and skating to create plays, but it's his passing ability and patience in tight that opens up lanes for him to exploit. Personally, I think that makes Merkley more likely to see his offensive prowess carry over, even if he causes some serious hair loss from his future coaching staff." - Brock Otten

"Merkley's talent is unquestionable and special. His willingness to play within a team structure, take responsibility in the defensive zone and attitude are all very questionable. A more talented version of Anthony DeAngelo." - Anonymous 

4. Akil Thomas - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
Total Votes: 22
High/Low Ranking: 2nd (6x)/7th (1x)
Comments: "Such a huge fan of how this kid plays the game. A very well rounded offensive player who has worked hard to improve his weaker areas this year. All hustle and heart, but with a fair amount of skill and good vision too. The fact that he already wears a letter in Niagara speaks volumes as to his character. Don't know if he possesses first line upside at the NHL level, but I have a lot of confidence that he can be a 10+ year NHL veteran who puts up 45-50 points consistently and plays in all situations." - Brock Otten

"There’s a tenacity and work ethic in Thomas’s game that is really intriguing. While he can skate and has skill, he seems to take a lot of pride in being an all-zones player. He can mix it up physically even though he doesn’t have great size." - Anonymous

"Powerful three-zone center who can score goals in a variety of ways and creates his own chances thanks to nifty stickhandling and advanced hockey sense. Thomas has taken to his role as Niagara’s top pivot, leading the Ice Dogs in scoring and playing in every key situation. He’s the focal point on the power play, is counted on to kill penalties and on a given shift is revealing an undervalued ability to create chances for his linemates." - Steve Kournianos

"The Florida native had an impressive rookie season last year for the Ice Dogs, posting 21 goals and 48 points as a rookie. He was held off the score sheet in a four game series sweep in the playoffs to end his season and was held pointless for Canada at the U-18 as a 17 year-old. In his draft year he hit the ground running with Canada at the Hlinka with six points in five games and has returned to Niagara as one of their top performers with 19 points in his first 18 games. He is a playmaking center with a high hockey IQ and puck skills which allow him to make plays and set linemates up for scoring chances. Skating is also good as he can carry the puck at speed and either make plays to beat defenders or find his wingers for outlet passes. He carries the puck with speed and is excellent at gaining the zone." - Peter Harling

"Akil Thomas is another player from the OHL in the 2018 NHL draft who has proven to be a top NHL prospect. He is one of the better skaters in the OHL thanks to his speed and good inside and outside edgework, while also possessing a high IQ to create scoring chances for teammates. His strong puck handling skills allow him to move around the offensive zone more freely and his fast hands give opposing players anxiety about what he will do next." - Scott Crawford
 
5. Barrett Hayton - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Total Votes: 22
High/Low Ranking: 2nd (2x)/8th (1x)
Comments: 
"Hayton: Super, super smart center. Gets a lot done even without dynamic tools. That being said, I think he has good vision and can finish plays. His foot speed is a problem though and despite how well he plays at the junior level I wonder how much offense he'll create in the NHL." - Anonymous

"I suspect we’ll see more offense from Hayton next year, once some of the older Hounds turn pro. But I love his leadership qualities and his compete level. He’s a well-rounded player with nice upside." - Ryan Kennedy

"SSM brass think he's a Top 10 guy with huge upside. increase role this year and has drastically improved despite player a new position mostly. Good size, hard on the puck, heavy shot. Easy to play with...plays a solid 2 way reliable game on a team who can win now." - Todd Warriner

"The 2nd half of last season Hayton really started to find his groove in the OHL. He is incredibly strong on the puck, has great hands and fits in perfectly with the Greyhounds possession system. He had a great Hlinka tournament and has seamlessly progressed into a greater role with the Hounds with the graduation of Senyshyn and Speers. Hayton has an NHL calibre shot and a willingness to drive the net to put himself in better position to capitalize on that elite skill." - Peter Kneulman

"Hayton impressed me at the Hlinka tournament. He's next in the long line of centers coming from the Soo that could crack day one of the draft. He has some of the best hands in the draft and always seems to know where to be on the ice. He also has a pro shot." - Mark Scheig

6. Evan Bouchard - Defense - London Knights
Total Votes: 21
High/Low Ranking: 2nd (1x)/Outside of the Top 10 (1x)
Comments:
"I readily admit that I am probably higher on Bouchard than most people. I remember watching his very first game and very first shift as a 15-year-old with the London Knights. I immediately texted a scout and asked what he knew about Evan Bouchard to which he replied not too much. He grew so much that first year that coach Dale Hunter often would use him on the first pp ahead of Victor Mete and Olli Juolevi during the playoffs and Memorial Cup. He has decent size, a high hockey IQ, knows when to jump into the play, an excellent PP quarter back and a very good shot – which is why the Knights try to set up the right shot in the left faceoff circle in the pp. His defensive game is a work in progress and it is coming along, but there is still work to be done. Based on overall potential, if I were picking today, Bouchard would be the first d-man selected out of the OHL." - Dominic Tiano

"3rd season so expectations are high. terrible Knights start hasn't hurt his #'s. Poised and patient with the puck, big shot and logs lots of minutes in all situations. Leads Knights in SOG which says a lot about how much he has the puck." - Todd Warriner

"Big-bodied two-way blueliner blessed with the ability to orchestrate London’s talent-loaded power play. Bouchard is a fluid skater with very good speed who when in control of the puck has a firm understanding of play development. The timing of his breakout passes are exceptional – especially when using bank passes to trap forecheckers – and he doesn’t crumble under     pressure when he’s pinned into a corner. Bouchard seems to always have opponents chasing him to no avail, and his skating ability allows him to create openings big enough for him to utilize his strong vision or a heavy, accurate shot." - Steve Kournianos

"The Oakville native is really growing all-around as a player on an average London blueline. Is racking up a ton of minutes by playing in all situations and I think that has been great for his development. He loves jumping into the play and is a good skater that can cover a lot of ice in a short time, although his judgment on when he moves into the play can be questioned. Moves the puck well and has a cannon of a shot. Is very noticeable in the offensive end, especially with the amount shots he fires per game. Does his job at home, but could be tougher to play against." - Mark McKelvie

"One of my favourite players to watch. Bouchard is the complete package on the backend. Smart, smooth skating and responsible while also being able to chip in offensively are the reasons why Bouchard could sneak into the top 10 of the 2018 draft. Bouchard is excellent at transitioning the puck up the ice and he's been able to begin to fill the void that Victor Mete left on the Knights blueline." - Dylan Galloway

7. Serren Noel - Forward - Oshawa Generals
Total Votes: 21
High/Low Ranking: 3rd (2x)/Outside of the Top 10 (1x)
Comments:

"The first thing you notice when watching Noel is that he is a big guy already at 6-5 and 200 pounds. But he is so much more than just a big guy, he skates well for someone who has grown as much as he has and his hands are pretty good. He can shoot the puck as he already has ten goals on the season for the Generals. For a player his size he can play a more physical game and be a force in front of the goal and in the corners than he does, but he does compete hard and is a responsible defensive player. Big players tend to mature slower so I believe he is just scratching the surface of his potential." - Peter Harling

"He's a pretty effective player in tight. He's mobile on his skates despite his big frame (6-5, 200), and likes to use that size to his advantage. He's relentless in the corners." - Mike Morreale

"Strapping forward plays with high energy and has a driving nature to his game. Even with a hot start, you can tell he's finding himself and new comfort within the improvements he's made. Has been more of a finisher thus far, but has an underrated ability to carry the puck and make plays on his own. Playmaking will come around with more attempts and touches. He can be real agile, explosive, and slippery one-on-one." - Anthony Mauro

"To see how much he has grown as a player since playing Midget AAA for the Brockville Braves, it is scary to think about how good he could be in another few seasons of development. Massive power forward, his skating has improved leaps and bounds. Lacks high end skill, but chips in and is an effective player." - Levi Hill

"A giant at the OHL level at 6’5’’ and over 200lbs, Noel is another player like Mississauga’s McLeod who is already build for the professional game. Though raw, his skills are obvious and jaw-dropping at times. At an age where most that tall are still working to figure out coordination, Noel doesn’t have that issue and uses his size to his full advantage when extending his stride in open ice or using his condor-esq reach to disrupt a play or possess a loose puck. Will have to put in continued work on his all around game and skill refinement, but his size and skill package can’t be taught while good coaching and hard work can figure out the rest." - Reed Duthie

8. Allan McShane - Forward - Oshawa Generals
Total Votes: 19
High/Low Ranking: 3rd (1x)/Outside of the Top 10 (3x)
Comments:

"Good hands and passer with a nose for the net. Smart positionally, has scored at every level. Natural ability to find space and keep plays alive with good stick and anticipation skills. Finds ways to score without being big, fast, or strong." - Todd Warriner

"McShane is a close second to Svechnikov when it comes to playmaking abilities. Very good at protecting the puck, plays calm and has the uncanny ability to find or create lanes and with his elite passing abilities creates scoring opportunities. Underrated defensive player in my opinion." - Dominic Tiano

"Is a steady player that does a lot right on both sides of the puck. He is responsible in his own end and good on faceoffs. His playmaking ability is through the roof and a lot of it comes from patience and great vision. He can put pucks     through spots that no one else saw. Would like to see him show a little more intensity and interest." - Mark McKelvie

"A focal point of the Generals offense alongside second rounder Studnicka, McShane is a handsy forward who dictates the pace of the play in the offensive zone as a superb passer. Shifty, and has a tight grip on the puck which enables his playmaking game as he can find himself lanes with navigation. Not just all stick flash, he has a head for the game and reads the ice well." - Anthony Mauro

“There isn't one specific thing that's high-end about McShane's game but he does a lot of little things well that put him higher on my list. Not a terrible skater he could definitely put some effort into his explosiveness and speed as he can look a little slow by not keeping his feet moving. His passing is his best asset as he can receive the puck, find an option and get it off his stick in the blink of an eye.” - Dylan Galloway 

9. Ty Dellandrea - Forward - Flint Firebirds
Total Votes: 14
High/Low Ranking: 5th (2x)/Outside of the Top 10 (8x)
Comments:
"Dellandrea is just starting to show off the offensive ability he had been hiding. He's an incredible competitor and works hard to win battles in both the OZ and DZ. Dellandrea doesn't have the puck skills to wow people but uses his size and speed to get to the dangerous areas of the ice. Dellandrea's shot is underrated in my opinion, he's got a great release, he's accurate and shoots from everywhere." - Dylan Galloway

"Goal-scoring two-way center with good size     plus all the intangibles — leadership, defensive zone play, faceoffs and late-game versatility. Dellandrea’s straight-line speed and quickness has improved to the point where both are becoming assets, but it’s his wicked shot and puck control under duress that separates from most of his draft-eligible peers." - Steve Kournianos

"Sorely underrated player that has a high hockey IQ...Using his body to shield the puck & a great passer of the puck." - Mark Seidel 

"Hard to find another player in this class that works as hard and puts the effort in night in, night out. And he puts in that same effort in all three zones. The most complete player on my list." - Dominic Tiano

"An interesting potential first round prospect, Dellandrea is performing at a high level for Flint. He is showing grit and physical play to go along with an offensive style of play. He uses his body to its full potential by blocking shots and throwing his body at opposing players. All though he is not the fastest player, he competes 100% and he will do what his coaches need him to do. Has the right attitude to develop into a potential NHL pro." - Scott Crawford

10. Rasmus Sandin - Defense - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Total Votes: 10
High/Low Ranking: 5th (1x)/Outside of the Top 10 (12x)
Comments:   
"Being in Sault Ste. Marie I have been lucky enough to see Sandin live multiple times the last 2 years. What has struck me about him early on in this OHL season is his confidence and aggressiveness carrying the puck and jumping into the play to help create offence. He has been equally impressive in the defensive zone." - Peter Kneulman

"A player to watch, especially once we hit the 2nd half of the season, Rasmus Sandin doesn’t get the attention he deserves. An impressive resume that includes time in the junior systems of both MODO & Brynas as well as captaining Sweden’s U-17 World Championship squad, Sandin began the season on Rogle’s SHL roster playing in 5 games and recording an assist before making the jump to the OHL in mid-October. A two-way defenceman with a high hockey and near pro level size, Sandin is the complete package. He doesn’t have the explosive potential of either Ryan Merkley or Evan Bouchard at the offensive end of the rink but is likely the best defender of the three and will be able to put up impressive offensive numbers at the OHL level. Excellent skater, smooth hands, and a never panic attitude make Sandin an excellent prospect for the next level." - Reed Duthie

"Sandin has made the adjustment to the OHL and it's been impressive..A slick rearguard that moves the puck to the right, has great stick skills and isn't afraid to jump into the rush." - Mark Seidel

"A highly intelligent blueliner that plays a calm game in all three zone. Escapes forechecking pressure with smart, simple plays. Strong in his defensive positioning, excellent gaps and reads when to collapse in on the puck carrier. Not overly physical but does use his body to separate pucks and protect. Smooth skater but who generates strong speed but could improve his first step. Makes heady passes at all ranges and is not shy about pinching deep in the offensive zone for an opportunity to get a shot on net. Nothing overly sexy in his style of play but highly effective and dependable. Came over to the OHL after starting the year playing against men in Sweden and has not looked out of place in the slightest." - Dan Stewart

"Not a dynamic skill guy or an explosive skater, but a really solid two-way defenseman. He's smart and he competes his ass off. Has some offense in his game as well even if not high-end." - Anonymous 

Honorable Mentions 

Kevin Bahl - Defense - Ottawa 67's (9 votes)
Highest Ranking: 7th (1x)
Comments: "Has slowly crept into my top 10 with continued improving performance. Anyone who knows me and the history of this blog, knows that I rarely rank these hulking, throwback defenders high in my rankings. So the fact that I'm willing to do that with Bahl (potentially) should mean a lot. Love the increased physical intensity he is playing with lately. Making life very difficult for opposing forwards. But he makes smart decisions with the puck and has good footwork for a big man. Also find it really interesting to watch how the 67's use him on the powerplay, similarly to how the Bruins use Zdeno Chara. Rotates between playing near the crease (using his size in front) and drifting back to the point. Like him more than I liked Logan Stanley in his draft year." - Brock Otten

"Bahl is somewhat of a throw back defenseman in that he is a big defensive defenseman at 6-1 and 225 pounds. Bah posted only four points in his rookie season in Ottawa but since then had an impressive showing with Canada at the Hlinka and posted two points. He has begun to develop an offensive side to his game and in his draft year has nine points (all assists) but is seeing time on the power play. He may never be an offensive force, but the rest of his game is good enough that any points are a bonus." - Peter Harling

"Has the potential to be considered a stud. Defencemen of his size can sometimes get picked apart for their weakness, but he’s very reliable and does a nice job all-around. If he can bring the same level of physicality every night it makes him a very intimidating force. Moves the puck well for his size and I think he has the potential to add a little more offense into his game as he progresses." - Mark McKelvie

"Physical shut-down defender with an advanced capacity to read plays and retreat back to the exact spot he’s supposed to be in. Bahl has size, strength and above-average mobility when you consider his size. His step-ups are timely and decisive, and you can make a strong case for Bahl being the draft’s best one-on-one defender among first-year eligibles." - Steve Kournianos

"Big and strong defender, who I am higher on than most. Not a real bruiser but uses his size well and possesses lots of tools to really like with this kid. Impressive size and strength, solid coordination for a six-foot-six kid, constantly improving skating stride with strong overall mobility, an accurate and effective wrist shot as well as the ability to make a skilled pass. He also shows a maturity in knowing where to be on the ice for most situations. Like I said, this kid is still putting it all together but has so many developing traits to his game that I feel he could be entrenched as a projected first rounder by next June." - Dan Stewart


Blade Jenkins - Forward - Saginaw Spirit (3 votes)
Highest Ranking: 9th (1x)
Comments:  
"While he wasn’t producing on the stat sheet early this season he was driving the net and creating chances. It was a tough situation to be put into in Saginaw as the team has very little returning offensive talent. He has started to heat up recently and this is the Jenkins I feel we can expect the rest of the season. There are questions marks around his overall speed and first step quickness. It will be a point of developmental emphasis with Jenkins the next few years because he has the other skills in his repertoire to be a great player at the next level." - Peter Kneulman

"Last season for Jenkins left a sour taste in the mouths of many. He scored just 8 points in 56 games for the U-17 team. That was because of the way the team rolled four lines. Jenkins played in a less than ideal role. Now in a better position with Saginaw, we're starting to see why some considered him a first round talent last season. He's a great skater and has a scorer's touch. Many will overlook him, but smart teams will jump on the opportunity to draft perhaps my steal of the draft." - Mark Scheig

Cam Hillis - Forward - Guelph Storm (2 votes)
Highest Ranking: 6th (1x)
Comments: 
"Plays in all situations for Guelph as a rookie. Wins faceoffs, kills penalties, block shots and can play. Good passer, anticipates well, needs strength but has been a pleasant surprise who's won over a seasoned OHL coach in George Burnett." - Todd Warriner

"Made for the new NHL. A true rookie in the OHL and he has shown the skill, playmaking and offensive sense that teams highly covet..Still needs to get better away from the puck but you aren't drafting him to be a 4th line Centre." - Mark Seidel 

Kirill Nizhnikov - Forward - Barrie Colts (2 votes)
Highest Ranking: 9th (1x)
Comments:   
"Continues to fall down my list and I admittedly don't have him in my Top 10. By mid season, I could see him being in the 20's in my rankings (for the OHL). Puck skill is super high, but I'm just not sure the hockey IQ is terrific. Not scoring despite possessing the talent to do so (and playing with the talent to assist him). And his play through traffic and away from the puck is super inconsistent. There are games where you watch him and he's completely invisible. Starting to have more doubters than fans in the scouting community." - Brock Otten

Giovanni Vallati - Defense - Kitchener Rangers (2 votes)
Highest Ranking: 10th (2x)
Comments: 
"I believe Vallati still has more to give and will rise in the rankings as the season goes on even with a sub-par start to the season. Vallati is an excellent skater but in my viewings, he's looked more like a passenger on the play rather than someone who can take control of it." - Dylan Galloway

Merrick Rippon - Defense - Mississauga Steelheads (1 vote)
Highest Ranking: 8th (1x)
Comments:   
"I have him higher on my list than most, but his physical tools combined with his hockey IQ should not go unnoticed. He shows good patience from the back end and can move the puck up the ice, good at exiting the defensive zone and getting out of danger. Not shy physically, he skates well and his offensive game is looking up. An OHL rookie, his Draft +1 year next season should make everyone take notice." - Levi Hill 

Kody Clark - Forward - Ottawa 67's (1 vote)
Highest Ranking: 8th (1x)
Comments:
"One of the most improved players in OHL, 7 goals in Oct. 3 OT winners. His skating has improved dramatically, playing a more prominent role in OTT this year. Scrappy, works hard, good on forecheck and getting stronger." - Todd Warriner

Declan Chisholm - Defense - Peterborough Petes (1 vote)
Highest Ranking: 9th (1x)
Comments:   
"Now in his second OHL season with the Petes, he's considered to be an offensive-defenseman. The left-handed shot has good vision, and is among the team leaders in assists. Some good upside, here." - Mike Morreale 

Carter Robertson - Defense - Ottawa 67's (1 vote)
Highest Ranking: 9th (1x)
Comments: 
"A smooth skating defender with good size and a strong two-way game. He's a little under the radar right now but that suits him well. Plays a simple game and can play all situations. He will be a long time Pro and play in a teams top 4 for years. Think Jay Bouwmeester." - Levi Hill 

Jacob Ingham - Goaltender - Mississauga Steelheads (1 vote)
Highest Ranking: 9th (1x)
Comments:
"Poor start by Missy hurt his progression. Much better team results have seen his #'s improve over last few weeks. Tall, rangy, good attitude, competitive and a good athlete all point to reasons he should succeed at the highest level. Great potential." - Todd Warriner

Riley Damiani - Forward - Kitchener Rangers (1 vote)
Highest Ranking: 9th (1x)
Comments:
"One of those guys that doesn't overwhelm you with his skills but does EVERYTHING right...Great leadership and is one of the keys to the Rangers success." - Mark Seidel 

Nathan Dunkley - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs (1 vote)
Highest Ranking: 10th (1x)
Comments: 
"Hidden amongst a packed Kingston forward lineup, Dunkley's uptick in goal scoring is no surprise this season as he has a sense for the play in front of the cage. He's always quick to position and adjust for loose pucks and is competitive in traffic. Though he comes with great pedigree from his pre draft year success, he will need to improve defensively and stand out more with the puck to receive serious top 2 round consideration." - Anthony Mauro

David Levin - Forward - Sudbury Wolves (1 vote)
Highest Ranking: 10th (1x)
Comments:  
"I still think Levin has another gear and that’s why he snuck onto my list. He hasn’t been helped by a brutal junior program in Sudbury but his game is elusive and creative and dynamic." - Scott Wheeler



It's time for the first consensus media/scout poll for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Even though there was a bit of deviation, it does seem like most people are set on who the top 3 players are from the OHL; Gabriel Vilardi, Owen Tippett, and Nic Hague. The order certainly isn't set but those three seem to have separated themselves from the pack right now. Outside of that, Matthew Strome seems to be on the fringe of making it a consistent top 4, but he still has some doubters. But when we're talking about the 5th best prospect from the OHL this year? Good luck finding a consensus. A remarkable 9 other players received votes for the Top 5. And an astonishing 22 players received consideration for the Top 10. Just shows how wide open this draft class is from the OHL. Definitely some quality depth, but also a lot of players with some question marks. Just how many first rounders will the OHL have this year? At this point, I could see that number being very low...or high, depending on how a lot of these players finish their seasons. 

For those unfamiliar with how this works, I poll many of the OHL's brightest minds; those who cover the league incredibly well and know the OHL inside, and out. These contributors supply me with their top 10 available players from the OHL, in addition to some comments. I then put it all together and provide you with a cumulative list. Call it "the consensus."

As always, this list involves contributions from a rather colourful cast of characters. Contributing their rankings and thoughts to this preliminary list for 2017 were:
It's time for the first consensus media/scout poll for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Even though there was a bit of deviation, it does seem like most people are set on who the top 3 players are from the OHL; Gabriel Vilardi, Owen Tippett, and Nic Hague. The order certainly isn't set but those three seem to have separated themselves from the pack right now. Outside of that, Matthew Strome seems to be on the fringe of making it a consistent top 4, but he still has some doubters. But when we're talking about the 5th best prospect from the OHL this year? Good luck finding a consensus. A remarkable 9 other players received votes for the Top 5. And an astonishing 22 players received consideration for the Top 10. Just shows how wide open this draft class is from the OHL. Definitely some quality depth, but also a lot of players with some question marks. Just how many first rounders will the OHL have this year? At this point, I could see that number being very low...or high, depending on how a lot of these players finish their seasons. 

For those unfamiliar with how this works, I poll many of the OHL's brightest minds; those who cover the league incredibly well and know the OHL inside, and out. These contributors supply me with their top 10 available players from the OHL, in addition to some comments. I then put it all together and provide you with a cumulative list. Call it "the consensus."

As always, this list involves contributions from a rather colourful cast of characters. Contributing their rankings and thoughts to this preliminary list for 2017 were:
It's time for the first consensus media/scout poll for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Even though there was a bit of deviation, it does seem like most people are set on who the top 3 players are from the OHL; Gabriel Vilardi, Owen Tippett, and Nic Hague. The order certainly isn't set but those three seem to have separated themselves from the pack right now. Outside of that, Matthew Strome seems to be on the fringe of making it a consistent top 4, but he still has some doubters. But when we're talking about the 5th best prospect from the OHL this year? Good luck finding a consensus. A remarkable 9 other players received votes for the Top 5. And an astonishing 22 players received consideration for the Top 10. Just shows how wide open this draft class is from the OHL. Definitely some quality depth, but also a lot of players with some question marks. Just how many first rounders will the OHL have this year? At this point, I could see that number being very low...or high, depending on how a lot of these players finish their seasons. 

For those unfamiliar with how this works, I poll many of the OHL's brightest minds; those who cover the league incredibly well and know the OHL inside, and out. These contributors supply me with their top 10 available players from the OHL, in addition to some comments. I then put it all together and provide you with a cumulative list. Call it "the consensus."

As always, this list involves contributions from a rather colourful cast of characters. Contributing their rankings and thoughts to this preliminary list for 2017 were:
It's time for the first consensus media/scout poll for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Even though there was a bit of deviation, it does seem like most people are set on who the top 3 players are from the OHL; Gabriel Vilardi, Owen Tippett, and Nic Hague. The order certainly isn't set but those three seem to have separated themselves from the pack right now. Outside of that, Matthew Strome seems to be on the fringe of making it a consistent top 4, but he still has some doubters. But when we're talking about the 5th best prospect from the OHL this year? Good luck finding a consensus. A remarkable 9 other players received votes for the Top 5. And an astonishing 22 players received consideration for the Top 10. Just shows how wide open this draft class is from the OHL. Definitely some quality depth, but also a lot of players with some question marks. Just how many first rounders will the OHL have this year? At this point, I could see that number being very low...or high, depending on how a lot of these players finish their seasons. 

For those unfamiliar with how this works, I poll many of the OHL's brightest minds; those who cover the league incredibly well and know the OHL inside, and out. These contributors supply me with their top 10 available players from the OHL, in addition to some comments. I then put it all together and provide you with a cumulative list. Call it "the consensus."

As always, this list involves contributions from a rather colourful cast of characters. Contributing their rankings and thoughts to this preliminary list for 2017 were: