The final installment of my Top 50 eligible OHL prospects for the 2009 NHL entry draft.
Here is the top 10...
10. Ryan O'Reilly - Forward - Erie Otters
If you go back and look at some of the things I had to say about O'Reilly at the beginning of the season, a lot of them were not favourable. But, as the season wore on, he really started to grow on me. The more you watch him, the more you appreciate the things he does well. I'll start with those. For his age, he's a tremendous defensive player and penalty killer. In a lot of the senses, he reminds me of Mike Richards when he was draft eligible, in that he uses his stick so well on the PK and defensively, uses his body to gain position over opposing forwards. Just a really smart player. He's also an outstanding playmaker who will use his size in the corners and behind the net. On the negative side, there are concerns about his skating, and I share them. As of right now, he's not a very effective player off the rush, and needs the offense to set up in the zone. The improvements in his skating will likely translate to an increased willingness to use his big body more as he drives to the net. At 6'0, 205lbs, I wish he used his body more to help generate offensive chances for himself. All in all, O'Reilly is a smart bet to be an NHL player, if he improves his skating. However, it is a classic case of, what is his potential at the next level?
9. Edward Pasquale - Goaltender - Saginaw Spirit
Pasquale is a guy I've felt deserves more credit than he has gotten this season. Maybe it's because he plays in Saginaw that he's not getting the exposure he deserves. A big goaltender at 6'2, 216lbs, Pasquale uses his size to his full advantage. He is aggressive in challenging shooters and he cuts down the angles and reacts to the play very well. He's also good at controlling his rebounds and because he's big, he generally makes the first stop. He's not the most athletic goaltender you'll see, but he does what he has to, to make the save. He gets from side to side and has the ability to make the acrobatic save. Essentially, Pasquale is just a really solid, fundamentally sound goaltender who did a great job in leading Saginaw into the playoffs this year. I expect big things from him in the years to come.
8. Peter Holland - Forward - Guelph Storm
Peter Holland impressed the hell out of me in his early season performances, but opposite from O'Reilly, I began to sour on him as the season went along. When he's at his best, Holland uses his solid skating ability to lead the rush into the offensive zone. He loves to attack coming down the wing and he has a tremendous shot. He's also a fairly complete player who has a high level of hockey sense and who will cycle along the boards and make an effort defensively. However, he appears to have developed into quite the enigma. At times, he looks fearful of entering the danger zones, which is the area he's most effective in, using his wicked shot in the slot. He also could stand to use his body more to shield the puck, rather than relying on his outside speed. And at times, he looks lost out on the ice, failing to return defensively and essentially becoming invisble. I liken Holland a little bit to the way Jeff Carter was in his draft year. And I think that Holland needs to ultimately develop into the same type of player, a goal scoring centerman who isn't afraid to head to the net and uses both his size and speed to create offense. But for every guy who learns this is necessary like Jeff Carter, are players like Jason Bonsignore who never figure it out.
7. Nazem Kadri - Forward - London Knights
I do like some of the things he brings to the ice. He's obviously an explosive skater who is one of the best stickhandlers in the OHL. He's often fearless and at only 6'0, 180, he'll throw his weight around and get in the face of opposing players. And he's shown the ability to elevate his game in the playoffs. But there a few things that I question, and it leads to his ranking a little further down than where most have him. First and foremost, I worry about the effort from game to game, period to period. I find him to be very easily distracted. If he gets called for a bad penalty, he's off kilter for the rest of the game. He's inconsistent, period to period and does not appear to be able to give a consistent effort. Often you'll see this from players playing on poor teams, but from a guy playing on one of the best teams in the OHL, I don't expect that. I also question his hockey sense. Often times, he'll explode into the offensive zone, deke through 2 defenders, and then appear to not know what to do with the puck. He's a guy who likes to have the puck on his stick, but at times it looks like he doesn't know what to do with it. He's at number 7, behind other players, because I have more faith in those 6 players reaching their full potential, than I do of Kadri.
6. Zack Kassian - Forward - Peterborough Petes
Kassian is an absolute throwback to the days of the "true" power forward, like a Brendan Shanahan, or a Kevin Stevens. He's got size and he uses it. One of the most feared bodycheckers in the OHL, Kassian loves to play physical and he uses his body really well to protect the puck and to give himself every advantage offensively. He's got good hands too, although I think his shot needs improvement. For a big guy, I actually think he skates very well and uses outside speed to drive to the net. Some of the things that he needs to improve upon, just come with experience, in my opinion. For instance, he needs to learn how to play both physical and involved offensively at the same time. At times, I find him to be distracted by looking for the big hit, rather than heading to the net and being the presence there. I also think he needs to do a better job of getting into scoring lanes and positioning himself for scoring opportunities. He'll float in the offensive zone at times, rather than try and establish some form of dominance. But I think these things come with confidence and experience, which Kassian will get.
5. Ethan Werek - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Outside of Chris DeSousa, no draft eligible OHL'er scored more goals than Werek did (32). So why the concerns about his offensive potential? In Stouffville Junior A last year, he outscored Corey Trivino, being a year younger, and all that was heard about Trivino last year was the offensive potential he had. This just in though, Werek can play, and play well. Scoring 32 goals on that Kingston team this year is quite impressive, considering how terrible they were. Even more impressive was his consistent effort throughout the entire season, continuing to improve as the season went along and he got more comfortable. Look at how he finished the season, 6 goals, 7 assists in the 8 games of March. Werek is just a solid player. He skates hard, forechecks and is developing into a very effective puck possession player. He has good hands and can from time to time, flash some serious stickhandling ability, especially in driving to the net, which he did with increasing authority as the season went along. He backchecks, he takes the body, and he's slowly developing into a power forward. He's also an incredibly intelligent player, who knows where to be on the ice. Toss in his very solid performance for Canada at the Under 18's, and I thinkwe've got a player a lot of people are really underestimating.
4. Calvin de Haan - Defense - Oshawa Generals
Truly, the most underrated player from the OHL this year. Calvin de Haan is just one solid defenseman. His transition from Tier 2 this season was effortless, jumping right into the top pairing for the Generals. He moves the puck incredibly well and makes the intelligent player every time. He picks his spots in pinching, and he carries the puck up the ice with ease. He runs the powerplay very well, and IMO was one of the main reasons Brett Parnham scored 20 powerplay goals this year. Defensively, he makes the smart plays, he gets positioning on opposing forwards, and he's great with coverage. He's just an overall, very intelligent defender. Heck, how the guy finished a +3 on that Oshawa team this year, considering the minutes he played, is beyond me. He's also playing pretty undersized right now at 173lbs. With added strength, his game could be taken to another level. I also think he was Canada's best defenseman at the Under 18's. Calvin de Haan is only hitting the tip of the iceberg here and I expect him to continue to surprise a lot of me and show them how good he truly is.
3. Ryan Ellis - Defenseman - Windsor Spitfires
Yes, he's undersized, and yes he needs to improve his defensive play. However, you just can't overlook the way he can control the pace of a game. I honestly haven't seen a defenseman in the OHL with the offensive skills and intelligence that Ellis' has. He makes Bobby Sanguinetti look like Hal Gill. He controls the point on the powerplay effortlessly and he makes nearly every player around him a better offensive player. His ability to move the puck up the ice is matched by few. Like I said, he can control the pace of the game like few defenders can. And sure, he's undersized, but he should be able to put some weight on to make him stronger for the professional game. And I think he has improved his defensive play a lot since he came into the league. He's a willing combatant who will take the body, and shows flashes of brilliance at the defensive end. I think the hockey sense is there for him to develop into a good defender, it's just going to come with coaching and experience. I just don't think you can pass up the opportunity to draft a guy like Ellis, considering the things he can do to improve your team. In the end, that's what it comes down to. The things he can do with the puck and offensively, help your team more than his defensive shortcomings hurt your team.
2. Matt Duchene - Forward - Brampton Battalion
While I'm not about to go Redline Report here and claim Duchene the better draft prospect over Tavares, I am willing to admit that Duchene did more this year to bring himself closer to Tavares, than Tavares did to separate himself from Duchene. Matt Duchene is just an outstanding all around offensive player. He's got great speed and he loves to come down the wing, attacking the net. He's a top notch playmaker who makes his teammates better. He is one of the best stickhandlers in the OHL, and makes moves at full speed. And, as he showed in the OHL playoffs this year, he can put the puck in the net too. I think his defensive game gets underrated as well, as he does make an effort to backcheck and is a fairly effective two way forward. To me, Duchene is the complete package, and I have a hard time thinking he won't have a very long career in the NHL, near the top of the league in scoring.
1. John Tavares - Forward - London Knights
Like I admitted above, I did consider Duchene ahead of Tavares, but ultimately you just can't overlook the talent he has. The skating, it's improved. The defensive game, it's improved (although with London I think it took a step back again). The bottom line is that, he has shown an ability to improve some of his weaknesses, and I think ultimately, in the NHL they won't be a concern. The thing you need to remember about Tavares, is how blessed of a goal scorer and offensive tactician he is. Great players know where to be on the ice, and he does. He gets himself into scoring lanes and when he does, it's lights out. Perhaps underrated, is his playmaking ability. As much as he can score, not enough is made of his ability to pass the puck. While it's clear Tavares would rather light the lamp, he does a lot to make his linemmates better and I think that in the NHL, you'll see Tavares start racking up a lot of assists. While I'm not sure he's a generational talent like was once thought, he's still a fantastic prospect who has a bright future ahead of him.