The second part of the unveiling of my Top 50 eligible OHL prospects for the 2009 NHL entry draft.
Here are prospects 30 through 11:
30. Peter Di Salvo - Goaltender - Barrie Colts
Di Salvo started off the year blazing, essentially stealing the starting goaltending job away from Boston third rounder Michael Hutchinson. But as the year went along, he cooled off a bit and began to get pretty inconsistent. In the playoffs, neither Di Salvo or Hutchinson were particularly strong, although Di Salvo did put in a couple strong performances when it was a little too late for Barrie in the series against Mississauga. Di Salvo is an athletic netminder who actually does a tremendous job of controlling his rebounds and does well in anticipating the play. The only concern I have at this point is that he can tend to play small in his crease. At 6'0 (somewhat undersized for a goalie these days), he can tend to play back in his crease, getting exposed on the angles. He needs to challenge shooters more and become more aggressive. The make up is there for a solid prospect though. It'll be interesting to see what Barrie does next year with two solid goalies. I'm sure by mid season, one of them will be gone and I wouldn't be surprised if it was Hutchinson.
29. Matthew Tipoff - Forward - Belleville Bulls
With only 3 goals in his last 36 regular season games, it's hard to rank Tipoff higher, even though I do like some of the things he brings to the ice. He's not big at 5'11, 180lbs, but he's not afraid of danger areas, heading to the net for rebounds and forechecking hard. He always keeps his feet moving, which is great for the big ice in Bellville where you can tire your defender out by out hustling him. In those last 36 games, the effort was still there, but the finish wasn't. In a sense I also question his hockey sense (no pun intended). For a guy that's constantly moving and beating defenders to the puck, he needs to get himself in better positions to score. I also would like to see him take the body more. It's not to often you see a high energy forward who isn't taking the body. Instead of just moving around for the sake of moving around, he needs to find that purpose for bringing energy. Is he getting into scoring areas, or is he going to start channeling that energy into being physically aggressive? Next year is huge for him because he risks falling behind some talented youngsters like Stephen Johnston, Luke Judson, Andy Bathgate, Scott Howe, and Cody Alcock, who are jumping at the bit to replace guys like Tangradi, Cameron, Mashinter, etc, on the scoring lines.
28. Beau Schmitz - Defense - Plymouth Whalers
At the beginning of the season, Schmitz looked like a complete write off. Came into Plymouth with some hype after spurning NCAA hockey for the CHL, but really failed to make an impression. With 2 points in his first 14 games, Schmitz looked tentative with the puck, was making poor choices in coverage and was really struggling. Perhaps chalk that up to transition time. He slowly began to get adjusted and finished the regular season with 35 points in his last 52 games. He also stepped up his physical play, showing at at 5'10, he can be a factor in the defensive zone. He still makes mistakes, in particular with picking his times to pinch and going for the hit, but he's improving. Perhaps this is just the tip of the iceberg with Mr. Schmitz?
27. Ben Chiarot - Defense - Guelph Storm
Chiarot is a big, physical defenseman who skates well. We know how valuable those are in today's NHL. At 6'3, 210, Chiarot has excellent mobility and has developed into a great defensive defenseman. I think his offensive skills may be a tad underrated too. He will from time to time carry the puck out of the zone and pinch in for an offensive opportunity. I think it comes down to confidence in the fact that he isn't doing it more. On the negative side, his defensive positioning could stand to improve some as he'll take himself out of the play to make a hit. At times, he also overhandles the puck in his own zone, which can lead to panic and turnovers. He's raw, but there is potential for improvement.
26. Chris DeSousa - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
Who's the player with the most goals scored this year among OHL draft eligible players (first year eligible)? That's right, Niagara IceDogs forward Chris DeSousa, who is still currently unranked by Central Scouting. With 33, 1 more than Ethan Werek and two more than Matt Duchene. Sure he's undersized at 5'9, but he plays like he's 6'5. He hits anything that moves and even put down big Taylor Doherty earlier this year, in probably the best hit I've seen this year in the OHL. He's a complete player who kills penalties, back checks, drives hard to the net, cycles in the corner, and drops the mitts. His best weapon, if you hadn't guessed from his 33 goals, is his booming shot. He scores a lot of goals coming down the wing and just unleashing the slapper. As an undersized forward, skating isn't a problem either. I really don't see CSB's reasoning for not ranking this kid. That being said, I know some of the other independent scouting agencies like Redline Report, are quite high on him.
25. Garrett Wilson - Forward - Owen Sound Attack
Wilson, unfortunately, might best be remembered for his slew foot on Rangers defenseman Dan Kelly that got him suspended for 15 games. Before the suspension, Wilson had 5 goals and 2 assists in 7 games. Unfortunately for him, he was never really able to get back on a roll like that. He did still have a pretty solid season for an average Owen Sound team. Wilson is a big body at 6'2, 200 and he's a rare case in that he actually uses his size to his advantage at a young age. He loves to park himself near the net and has good hands in that he capitalizes on the chances he creates for himself and that others create for him. He's also very physical and throws his body around, especially in the corners. On the negative side, Wilson's skating needs massive improvement. At this point, he's not really a factor off the rush, only when the offense sets up in the zone. The package is there for a power forward though, he just needs to improve his skating to involve himself more in the play.
24. Tyler Randell - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
Tyler Randell is a forward whom you could characterize as your typical checking line forward. He works hard at the offensive end, driving to the net, throwing his body around and being an overall pest to defend against. He has good hands and actually a pretty decent shot which he should use to eventually score a decent amount of goals in the OHL. Unlike some of the more recent OHL "checking" prospects, he actually has size too, at over 6'0 and close to 200lbs. On the negative side, for an energy player, Randell's skating isn't tremendous. While I wouldn't call it poor, for the type of high tempo game he could potentially play, it needs to be better. Also, for your prototypical checking forward, he could stand to be more defensively oriented. At times, he'll float a bit, when he should be backchecking hard and using that aggressive nature to help win puck battles in his own zone.
23. Phil Varone - Forward - London Knights
Here's a guy who stepped up HUGE in the OHL playoffs. If you saw my last Sunday Top 10, I had Varone as the 5th best playoff performer. Prior to that, I can tell you he wouldn't have been in my top 30. But playoff performances mean a lot to me. I think they show the true character of a player. An undersized forward, Varone is not afraid to attack the net and generate offense by any means possible. He's also a complete player who competes hard and is often the first player back to the defensive zone on his line. His offensive numbers were underwhelming this year after playing so well for both Kitchener and London last year. But he stepped it up huge in the playoffs for London, leading them with 10 goals in 14 games. I think his playoff performance saved his draft stock. I expect him to carry over his playoff performance to next season where he has the talent to be one of the leading scorers in the OHL with increased ice time.
22. Kyle Clifford - Forward - Barrie Colts
I didn't have Clifford in my top 30 for either of my first two rankings, but as the season went along, he got better and better, particularly at the offensive end. At 6'1, 200lbs, Clifford uses his size well at both ends of the ice. A heart and soul player, Clifford gives it all every shift and wins battles in the corners. He also hits like a truck and isn't afraid to drop the mitts. His skating is good for his size too and he uses it to be an effective forechecker. At times this season, he has shown glimpses of being able to contribute more at the offensive end and I do believe he is capable of more. I like his hustle and I think character players like himself, deserve to be rewarded occasionally.
21. Brett Flemming - Defense - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
At 5'11, 175lbs, Flemming isn't the biggest defenseman, but he gets the job done. He took a huge step forward this season in St. Mike's, often pairing with Cameron Gaunce on the top pairing. He is a solid two way defenseman who doesa great job moving and carrying the puck up ice. He runs the powerplay and is a very smart player who picks his spots and reads the play well. Defensively, he does a good job using positioning to keep bigger forwards away from the net, and he's not afraid to engage in the corners. Just a really smart player whom I have a lot of confidence in. The only negative really is his size at 5'11. At times he'll play like he wishes he was 6'5, and attempt to play the body, but will then get taken out of position. If he keeps things simple in the defensive end, he's generally very effective.
20. Marcus Foligno - Forward - Sudbury Wolves
I expected more out of Foligno this year, I'm not going to lie. He's a big body and he has a good skill set, but he didn't put it together as well as I would have hoped this year. He can be a monster in the corners and a load to handle as he drives to the net, but he doesn't engage physically often enough. At times, he floats in the offensive zone and becomes invisible. His skating could also use some work, although part of me thinks that perhaps it's an effort issue and not a skating one. But as I said, he does have skill and good hands, especially in getting shots off quickly and creating scoring opportunities for himself. On the positive, Foligno is one of the youngest players available for this years draft, so he's very raw. A definite project pick with the bloodlines that suggest he could vastly improve.
19. Jesse Blacker - Defense - Windsor Spitfires
His 21 points from the blueline this year are a bit deceiving. Blacker has the offensive skills to contribute much more than that, however being stuck behind Ryan Ellis and Rob Kwiet in Windsor this year, his powerplay time was limited. Blacker is an outstanding skater who will rush the puck up the ice. He doesn't always pick the best times for his rushes or pinches, but as a relatively inexperienced OHL defender, that will come. Defensively, he engages in the corner and is a very solid positional defender. He was often paired with the underrated Mark Cundari this season and the two combined for a +73 rating. Hopefully he's able to breakout next year offensively, although he could get buried again behind the incoming Cam Fowler.
18. Taylor Beck - Forward - Guelph Storm
Beck is a hard working forward with good size, who took big steps forward offensively this season. He forechecks hard, wins battles in the corner and loves to go hard to the net. The one criticism he's taken this year has been about his skating, but I think those concerns have been largely overblown. For his size, I find him to be at least an average skater who gets to the places he needs to get. The concern I do have for Beck lies in his overall offensive potential, and his aggressiveness. For a hard working forechecker, Beck doesn't use his size nearly enough to engage the opposition physically. And for that reason, I'm somewhat down on him because I'm not sure I see his offensive abilities translating to a top 6 role in the NHL. Meaning he'd have to play a checking role, and how many legit third line players in the NHL are relatively passive players? I don't like his invisibility act in the playoffs for Guelph either.
17. Michael Latta - Forward - Guelph Storm
A solid two way forward who transitioned well to Guelph after a midseason trade from Ottawa. Latta isn't the biggest player or the best skater, but he does his best to make himself visible. He's a very solid defensive player who's often the first forward back, and he does a great job in the corners winning lose puck battles. Offensively, he's a fairly solid all around player who creates scoring chances for his teammates off his determination. I've heard a lot of people praise his physical play, however I've never personally witnessed much of a physical nature from him, which is something I'd like to see from a character forward. I do have my concerns about his NHL potential though. I can't help but compare him to Zack Torquato of Erie, who's built the same way and skates the same way, and who has really fallen off the map as an NHL prospect. Players like Latta can have a hard time finding a role in the NHL, due to size, speed, and skill issues. Is he a checking player, or is he a top 6 forward?
16. Jordan Szwarz - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
A consistent offensive producer from game to game, Szwarz is still a big of an enigma. He's not the biggest (5'11, 186lbs), but he's very ellusive on the ice. He changes pace very well and has excellent mobility. He gets himself into scoring chances and knows where to be on the ice. At the same time, I find him to go into bouts of invisibility during games, and I wish he were more involved in all aspects of the play, considering his waterbug type playing style. But he clearly has excellent offensive skills and does well to make those around him more dangerous offensive players, when he's on his game. He's not really a guy who's getting a lot of attention, but who's been consistently ranked pretty decent by Central Scouting. He could be a guy who could surprise people and have some big offensive years in this league.
15. Taylor Doherty - Defense - Kingston Frontenacs
There is no denying that Doherty had a very disappointing season. He was talked about as a potential mid first rounder, and now could be lucky to see himself go in the mid 2nd round. However there are still things to like about him. For one, he's 6'8, 218lbs. For two, he has solid puck skills and shows great skating ability moving forward in carrying the puck up the ice. For three, he's not afraid to take the body and use his size to his advantage. Now for the downside. For one, while he's a solid straight away skater, his lateral and backwards mobility needs work, especially for him to develop into an effective two way defender. For two, he also needs to work on his defensive zone coverage. At times he becomes over aggressive and loses his man, leading to scoring opportunities. For three, his hockey sense at the offensive end has come into question and leads some to believe those offensive stats will never come. So that's three strikes for, three strikes against. He's a project, there is no denying it, but there is enough to like that suggests with solid coaching and an attitude directed towards improvement (where the draft interviews come in handy), he can develop into an NHL defender.
14. Matt Clark - Defense - Brampton Battalion
A player who has really rocketed up the draft charts this season, Clark is a first year defender out of Junior A. At 6'3, 215lbs, he skates like he's 5'11, 170. That is to say, he has outstanding mobility, in particular for a defenseman who plays a solid, and safe defensive style. However Clark can also make a solid first pass, is very smart with the puck in his own end, and has shown glimpses of using his skating ability to bring the puck up ice. He's also a smart physical presence who takes control of forwards in the offensive zone. On the slightly negative side, I find him to need work positionally. He needs to use his mobility to his advantage more in the defensive end, as he can get caught standing still at times trying to play the body, instead of keeping up with the forwards. But as a first year defender, he took the necessary strides forward and looks like a really solid stay at home defenseman with some hidden offensive talent.
13. Cazey Cizikas - Forward - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
At this point, I start to wonder if I'm the only supporter of this kid still. However, I just can't put him any lower. There is no denying that he had a disappointing offensive season, failing to top his strong totals from his rookie season. However, a lot of people fail to realize how Mississauga plays under Coach Dave Cameron. They roll three lines evenly and have an incredibly balanced offensive attack and Cizikas was a critical member of this offense. I still like the speed he brings and the way he attacks the net using his speed. He forechecks hard and works the cycle. He's developed into an outstanding penalty killer who actually had 3 shorthanded goals this year. He throws his body around and at times he even shows creativity with the puck that suggests he might be fooling us with his offensive numbers. Yes, he has some consistency issues, especially offensively, and I do wish he attacked the crease with more vigor. But I've seen him at his best and he's quite the player at those times. I think he'll eventually put it together.
12. Alex Hutchings - Forward - Barrie Colts
Hutchings is just a really solid player. While undersized (5'10), Hutchings is a tremendous skater and has no problem working through opposing checkers. He plays both ends of the ice and plays in all situations for Barrie. He isn't afraid to drive the puck to the net and does a great job of controlling the pace in the offensive zone. Hutchings is just a very smart offensive player who makes his linemates better and who knows where to be and where to put the puck. He was also one of the few Barrie players to show up for the playoffs, where he wore his heart on his sleeve. If he was a little bit bigger, I'd have him higher, but despite the outstanding skating, I'm still a little bit weary of how he'll eventually adjust to the NHL.
11. Scott Stajcer - Goaltender - Owen Sound Attack
Stajcer did wonders to improve his draft stock this season. With solid play, he eventually was able to steal the starting goaltender spot away from Dallas second rounder Tyler Beskorowany. A big netminder at 6'3, Stajcer covers a lot of the net. He's also very athletic and moves well in his crease, helping to utilize that size to the best of his ability. His rebound control improved over the course of the season and he does a great job of making that first save. Really in his first season in the OHL, Stajcer's inconsistencies this season can be pegged to a goaltender going through learning curves. He showed a lot of heart in the playoffs, facing a ton of shots against Windsor and doing his best to keep his team in the games, despite a four game sweep. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, he wasn't taken for the Under 18 team, which could have really skyrocketed his stock, IMO. But he's stilla big goaltender with a lot of potential who should be among the first few goalies taken in 2009.
Stay tuned for the Top 10!