Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Top 10 - Defensive Forwards

First off, thanks to those that wrote in or commented with possible list ideas. Some outstanding ideas. This week, and next week, I'll be covering the top defensive players in the OHL. This Sunday will be forwards, next Sunday will be defenseman. Thanks to "back2back" on Local Sports Report for the idea.

For some of the other ideas I received, thanks to "Tunisian Tsar" for a couple great ones. As for the top 10 players to watch from the Priority draft, unfortunately, I don't really know a whole lot about any of those guys, other than what I've read. The only guy I've really seen play is Daniel Catenacci. So ultimately, I don't want to make a list of those guys just based on what I've read and not seen. Here is an interesting little article on "5 to Watch" from the OHL. Also, great idea on the 2010 eligible players. I'm going to put that one in my back pocket for later, probably would be a great top 10 for before next season starts.

Also, to the anonymous commenter about the top draft risers and fallers; the two Sunday Top 10's before the NHL Entry Draft (June 13 and 20th) will be dedicated to just that. So stay tuned.

Back to today's, which focuses on the top defensive forwards in the OHL. As "back2back" so eloquently put it, "We hear so much about the guys who get the points but sometimes its nice to recognize players who are good at keeping the puck out of their own net." One important thing to consider is that this list is of the top defensive forwards, not penalty killers. There are a lot of really good penalty killing forwards in the OHL, but quite a few them aren't as focused defensively when play is five on five. So let's not confuse penalty killing ability with overall defensive and two way ability.

Here are your Top 10 Defensive Forwards

10. Cody Hodgson - Brampton Battalion
Anytime you see a player of Hodgson's calibre on a list like this, I think that's pretty impressive. For all his skill and offensive ability, Hodgson has rounded himself into an excellent two way forward who has developed a strong desire to back check. The fact that he has developed into such a complete player, can be linked to his rise on most top prospect lists. I also think that ultimately, his increased two way ability will be his ticket to Vancouver next season. I don't see Cody back in the OHL next season, since now, not only can he help Vancouver offensively, but he's not going to hurt them defensively, like a lot of 19 and 20 year old's would.

9. Tyler Murovich - Saginaw Spirit
Looking back, I think that Murovich should have definitely had a place in my "Mini Mights" Top 10. This little guy made massive improvements this season, his second in the OHL after transferring from the USHL. He finished third in scoring for the surprisingly good Spirit this season, and was their second best playoff performer behind Jack Combs. He plays with a lot of heart and isn't afraid of anyone, qualities that make him an excellent two way player. Despite his size, he anticipates the play very well and makes a consistent effort in being the first forward back to the defensive zone. With Combs and Chris Chappell off to the professional ranks next season, Saginaw will be looking to Murovich to lead the show.

8. Matthew Lyall - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
While Lyall may not be a significant professional prospect, this overager and Soo Captain leaves it all on the ice. Lyall was solid at both ends of the ice for the struggling Greyhounds, leading the team in goals and being a defensive presence on a team with few of them. Likely CIS bound next year, unless he earns a pro contract at an NHL prospect camp, Lyall's tenacity and two way game will be surely missed by a young Greyhounds team who will be looking to improve.

7. Matt Kennedy - Guelph Storm
Not only was Kennedy named the most underrated and hardest working player in the OHL Coaches Poll (for the West), but he also got a nod as a third team All Star this season. Not many players improved as much as Kennedy did this season, a fact that could see Kennedy's name get called at the NHL Entry Draft as a draft overager. Kennedy also got a nod in the Coaches Poll for being an excellent defensive forward. He plays within the Guelph system as well as anyone and plays the game hard. He sticks with his man and makes their job as hard as possible.

6. John Kurtz - Sudbury Wolves
This Oakville, Ontario native somehow managed to finish +15 on the Wolves this season, a feat which literally boggles my mind, considering how bipolar Sudbury was. Kurtz's play this season earned him a nod as the most underrated player in the Eastern Conference by the Coaches Poll. Kurtz is a hard working forward who does a great job in backchecking and is just an overall solid and intelligent player. Likely returning as an overager, Kurtz will be looked upon to help Sudbury improve next season.

5. Logan Couture - Ottawa 67's
Similar to Hodgson, Couture is an elite level player who stepped up defensively this season. However, I did have some conflicts about including Couture on this list at all, considering his niche for being a bit of a Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. At times, Couture can be a dominating two way presence, while at other times, he can be a complete disappearing act at both ends. At the beginning of this season, he was taking a lot of flak for being a non existent factor on a team that needed him to be its biggest factor. As the season went along, he got better and better. By the time the OHL Playoffs rolled around, Couture was undoubtedly playing some of the best hockey of his OHL career. If Couture wants to be, he can be a tremendous player, especially at the defensive end, where he uses his strong hockey intelligence to anticipate plays like very few. Hopefully, the San Jose Sharks organization can get the best out of him.

4. Ryan O'Reilly - Erie Otters
Admittedly, O'Reilly is currently a better penalty killer than he is a defensive stalwart. I'm not sure there is a better penalty killing forward in the OHL than O'Reilly, who's active stick, anticipation, and physical abilities allow him to control the pace of opposing powerplays. Look no further than to the reason for Erie's league leading penalty killing unit this season. That being said, O'Reilly isn't quite as dominant a force defensively. A lot of that has to do with his skating ability and being able to get back quickly to the defensive end. That being said, once the offense sets up shop at the other end, O'Reilly does too, and he's able to be a very strong defensive presence. It's in the transition game that he can have some trouble. But with the skating improvements I'm sure he's likely to make, O'Reilly has the potential to top this list.

3. Thomas Kiriakou - Ottawa 67's
With his play and improvements this season, this overager did a lot to show NHL scouts that he's worth an NHL contract this offseason. Previously considered a strong defensive forward, Kiriakou exploded offensively this season with 29 goals and was a big reason for Ottawa's strong season. While he may not be the best skater, Kiriakou works hard and is always the first forward back, doing a great job of anticipating plays at the offensive end. I'm not sure how many times in watching Ottawa this season, I saw him come back to the defensive zone in order to break up an odd man rush. While it remains to be seen where he'll be playing next season (AHL, ECHL, CIS?), one thing is for certain. The 67's are going to really miss the strong two way abilities of guys like Couture and Kiriakou.

2. Scott Timmins - Windsor Spitifres
Timmins is a solid all around player with very few weaknesses. There is no question that his acquisition by Windsor, was a big reason they were able to win the Memorial Cup this season. With a 35 goal season, and a strong two way ability, there is reason to believe Timmins could hear his name called at the NHL entry draft, as a draft overager. Our own Sean Keogh strongly believes that Timmins has the makings of a solid NHL prospect and that he's more than worthy of a late round selection. While I tend to disagree slightly on his NHL potential, I do believe Timmins to be one of the best two way forwards in the league and a guy who concertedly makes an effort on the backcheck.

1. Cory Tanaka - Belleville Bulls
This overager and OHL career games leader has long been considered one of the best defensive forwards in the Ontario Hockey League. A little ball of tenacity, Tanaka is constantly buzzing around the ice. His excellent skating ability allows him to be elusive on the ice, and he constantly outworks the opposition for loose pucks. Tanaka's conditioning and hard work make him such a strong two way player, as he beats forwards to the puck in his own zone and uses an active stick to be a defensive pest. While it remains to be seen whether Tanaka's defensive abilities can get him an NHL contract, I highly doubt he's in the CIS next year, as I'm certain he'll earn himself at least an AHL/ECHL contract to work his way up the ranks.

Stay tuned for next week's Top "Defensive" Defenseman.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Next Sunday's Top 10

Hey everyone,

For next Sunday's Top 10, I'm taking requests from readers for something they'd like to see done. Feel free to post your idea as a comment below. I'll pick the best one to do for this Sunday, however I'll keep all ideas in mind for future Top 10's.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Sunday Top 10 - Top Complete Fighters

In today's Top 10, we look at the OHL's best and most useful fighters. In that I mean, players who fight, and fight often (in most cases), but are also skilled, important members of their team. So, apologies to guys like Peter Stevens and Mike Yovanic, but this is a list of the top complete fighters, not just the best fighters. The criteria I used to measure whether they were fighters or not, was whether they had ever been in more than 10 fights before in a season. Of course there is also some subjectivity in my selections, because I took into account whether these guys were winning some of these fights. Confused? I hope not. I've embedded a clip of each guy at his best with the gloves off, for entertainment purposes of course.

Here is the top 10...

10. Luke Gazdic - Erie Otters
Gazdic will never be mistaken for a superb offensive player, but he's worked hard to improve his puck skills and it showed where he set a career high with 20 goals this season. He is an effective energy player who seems to do anything to help his team win. He hits anything that moves and is one of the most feared body checkers in the OHL. And of course, he fights and fights well. Gazdic fought 12 times this year, inlcuding fights against heavyweights Mike Yovanic, Kyle Neuber, and Brandon Mashinter.
Here is a clip of Gazdic TKO'ing Mike Yovanic from earlier this season.

9. Andrew Shaw - Niagara IceDogs
This kid is nuts. In a good way. At just under six feet and max 160lbs, Shaw came into the league this year willing to fight anyone, even if it was a guy 5 inches and 75lbs bigger than him. And he holds his own and never gives up. His offensive game improved greatly over the course of the season and I think eventually you'll see him being a very solid offensive contributor in this league, when he's given more ice time. Being the youngest player on this list is an impressive feat.
Here is Shaw fighting Jack Walchessen this season.

8. Zac Rinaldo - London Knights
Rinaldo is a human wrecking ball on the ice. He's absolutely one of the best body checkers and most aggressive players in the OHL. While he's developed the reputation for playing a bit dirty, he's often able to back things up with his fists. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Rinaldo put up nearly a point per game in his time with London this year. Again, while he'll never be a big time offensive contributor at the next level, he's starting to realize that he can create offense with the energy he brings to the ice. He's also developed into a real quality piece in the puck possession game, in particular during the cycle.
Here is Rinaldo tossing around behemoth Taylor Doherty from this season.

7. Kyle Clifford - Barrie Colts
The draft eligible Clifford got better and better as the season went along, thus explaining his rise through the draft rankings from season start to season finish, culminating with a spot on the Canadian Under 18 team. He forechecks hard and appears to know where to go on the ice offensively. Clifford also developed quite the penchant for fighting this season, dropping the gloves 14 times. While his offensive abilities may be hitting the tip of the iceberg, his physical abilities are clearly a strength of his.
Here is Clifford fighting Matt Clark of Brampton, a fellow draft eligible player.

6. Anthony Peluso - Brampton Battalion
Peluso made great improvements this year, in my opinion. After the trade from the Soo to Brampton, he looked to be playing inspired hockey. With Brampton his offensive game began to come out, as he was turning his hard work on the forecheck into scoring opportunities. When you go hard to the net, good things often happen, and Peluso has started to become a solid opportunistic scorer, even netting 8 in the playoffs. I think his play in Brampton really helped to earn him that contract from St. Louis recently. While Peluso didn't fight quite as much this year (with 8), he did have 14 last season.
Here is Peluso TKO'ing former Knights defenseman Todd Perry from a few years ago.

5. Harry Young - Windsor Spitfires
Young is the only defenseman I put on this list, but he deserves it. Not only did the towering defenseman fight 20 times this season, but he's developing into a strong shutdown defender who is using his size to gain position on opposing forwards. He also serves as the captain of Windsor where he's clearly demonstrated his leadership capabilities in leading that team this season. While this New Jersey Devil draft pick could still stand to improve his mobility, the Devils have to be happy with the progression of the rest of his game.
Here is Young in a fight with the Knights Jason Wilson.

4. Brandon Mashinter - Belleville Bulls
Ok, I cheated a bit. Mashinter has never fought more than ten times in his OHL career. While he may not fight a lot, when he does, he can throw them with the best in the OHL. His reputation as one of the best fighters in the OHL, earns him the right to this list, despite not meeting the fight criteria I set. I'm not sure there was a more improved player in the OHL this season, than Mashinter. Formerly a purely physical grinder who was relied on for his fists, Mashinter turned into a goal scorer this season, scoring 34 goals and earning a contract from the NHL's San Jose Sharks. Nearly every aspect of his game improved this season, including his skating which went from terrible to acceptable.
Here is Mashinter really tossing around IceDog and fellow listee Andrew Shaw during this season's playoffs.

3. Matt Martin - Sarnia Sting
Martin turned a 25 goal season into a selection at the 2008 NHL entry draft, after failing to be drafted in 2007. This season, Martin continued to improve, scoring 35 goals and performing at over a point per game pace. Martin is an incredible physical presence on the ice, throwing body checks left and right, driving hard to the net, and winning battles in the corners. On top of that, Martin can really throw them and should make a solid professional hockey player.
Here is Martin taking on fellow power forward James Livingston of Sault Ste. Marie.

2. Stefan Della Rovere - Barrie Colts
Many hockey fans became familiar with Della Rovere during this years World Junior's, where his undisciplined play hurt Canada in some instances. When he's playing within the limits, Della Rovere is quite the effective pest. He skates hard and he plays hard. Rovere is one of the best body checkers in the OHL, but is also a beast on the cycle, where his strong lower body help to protect the puck in the corners. Rovere is also a solid offensive player who has the ability to make his linemmates better. As much as Rovere likes to stir things up, he can also back it up with his fists, with a total of 24 fights over the last 2 seasons.
Here is Della Rovere scuffling with number 3 on this list, Matt Martin.

1. Zack Kassian - Peterborough Petes
This potential top 15 draft pick for the 2009 NHL draft, is a throwback to the power forwards of yester years. Kassian uses his size to his advantage, being physically aggressive, as well as driving to the net with the puck on his stick. As a potential first round pick, Kassian obviously has a ton of offensive talent, but the kid loves to fight with 14 scraps this season, holding his own in the vast majority of them.
Here is Kassian fighting IceDog forward Chris DeSousa from late last season.

For next week's Sunday Top 10, I'm going to ask you, the readers, for a top 10 idea you want to see. Simply post your idea as a comment and I'll see what I can do about getting it done.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The OHL Dominates the CHL Awards Ceremony

OK, so dominate may be a strong word, but the OHL certainly did well for itself at the 2009 CHL Awards Banquet. Ontario Hockey League players took home the majority of the night's main awards, including Player of the Year, Top Draft Prospect of the Year, Goaltender of the Year, and Coach of the Year.

Brampton Battalion forward Cody Hodgson took home the CHL Player of the Year award. Past winners include John Tavares, Sidney Crosby, Eric Lindros, Joe Sakic, among many other quality names (to see that list, click here).

London Knights forwardJohn Tavares took home the CHL Top Draft Prospect award. The past CHL Player of the Year joins Steve Stamkos, Jason Spezza, Joe Thornton as players to have won this honour. To see a full list of past winners, click here.

Belleville Bulls star Mike Murphy took home the CHL Goaltender of the Year, after being nominated, but not winning last year. Murphy joins Carey Price, Cam Ward, and Felix Potvin on this trophy. For more names on this trophy, click here.

Finally, Windsor Spitfires Coach Bob Boughner took home the newly named Brian Kilrea Coach of the Year award for the second straight season. Boughner becomes the first ever back to back winner in the award's 20 year history. To see other previous winners (like Mr. Kilrea himself), click here.

Big congrats to those guys, they definitely deserved it.

To see a full list of all winners, check out the official press release from the OHL found here. Also thanks and credit to the OHL link above for the great picture of our CHL award winners.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Sunday Top 10 - Mini Mights

In today's Sunday Top 10, I rank the best undersized players in the OHL. For this list, any player listed at 5'9 and under was considered for this list. I realize that the selection of the 5'9 marker is completely subjective, however here is my reasoning. I find that when players are 5'11, or 5'10, they are often considered undersized, but more often than not, their ability to crack the NHL is not questioned as largely as players who are 5'9 or 5'8. Once you start talking about a player who is under 5'9, you get into the "too small for the NHL argument." This is just in my experience in following junior hockey and the draft, and again is completely subjective. But you've got to draw the line somewhere for a list like this, and I went with 5'9. Also, all players are considered according to their listed OHL weight (according to

The interesting thing is, this was actually a very hard list to make for me. Some very good and interesting players failed to make this list, like William Wallen, Tyler Murovich, and Kaine Geldart. I think it speaks volumes to the way the game has changed, that so many "undersized" players can not only play, but make an impact in the Ontario Hockey League.

Anyway, here is my top 10 players 5'9 and under:

10. Andrew Agozzino - Niagara IceDogs - Listed at 5'9
Agozzino does everything for the IceDogs, from playing on the team's top line and leading the team in regular season and playoff scoring, to killing penalties and demonstratingg leadership qualities. Agozzino is one of those stereotypical undersized forwards who wears his heart on his sleeve and plays hard every shift. Perhaps due to his size, he hasn't been ranked all season for the 2009 NHL entry draft (by Central Scouting), however I wouldn't be surprised at all if he was still drafted. Generally speaking, for a player to succeed in the NHL at 5'9, he's got to have two things, speed and heart. Agozzino has both.

9. Ryan Hayes - Plymouth Whalers - Listed at 5'9
A former standout with the U.S. Under 18 team, Hayes left Boston College last year for Plymouth with little fanfare. He had some trouble adjusting to the league last year, but this year went much better for him. He finished 2nd on Plymouth with 26 goals, and was even better in the playoffs with 5 goals and 5 assists in 9 games. Hayes uses his speed very well and has an excellent shot. He finds the scoring areas very well too, which makes him a dangerous sniper in the mold of a Brian Gionta. Hayes has also worked hard to become involved in all areas of the game, increasing his desire to enter high traffic areas. While it may be too little, too late for Hayes to be drafted into the NHL, he'll likely be one of the better overagers in the league next year, should he return to Plymouth.

8. Ryan O'Connor - Barrie Colts - Listed at 5'8
O'Connor is one of two defenseman, as well as one of two 1992 born rookies on this list. O'Connor impressed me greatly in my viewings of Barrie this season. He has a ways to come in terms of learning the defensive side of the game, but he moves the puck well and can really shoot the puck and run a powerplay. I think it's pretty impressive that O'Connor, as a 1992 5'8 defenseman, was able to hold his own in most areas, considering his lack of strength and growth at this stage. Here's hoping that he has a bit of a growth spurt before the draft in 2010, because as rare as it is for forwards under 5'10 to be drafted, it's even rarer for defenseman at that size to get the call at the next level. He reminds me a lot of the way Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Kris Russell looked in the WHL when he played for Medicine Hat. Russell grew to 5'10, so hopefully O'Connor can hit a similar height eventually.

7. Chris DeSousa - Niagara IceDogs - Listed at 5'9
Similar to Agozzino, DeSousa is an undersized forward who does it all for the Dogs. As I mentioned in my draft preview, DeSousa had the highest goal total of any draft eligible OHL forward. Quite an impressive feat. He drives hard to the net and he has an outstanding shot. He'll be a big time goal scorer in this league. However, he's more involved in the physical side of the game than Agozzino. He loves to throw the body and is often the first player into a scrum to protect his teammates. It's that hardline attitude that I believe will get DeSousa drafted somewhere in 2009. Should Alex Pietrangelo not return next season, DeSousa could also be wearing the C for Niagara in 2009-10.

6. Michael Quesnele - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds - Listed at 5'9
Quesnele is the 2nd and last defenseman to appear on this list. At 5'9, Quesnele has been a main contributor on the Greyhounds blueline for over three seasons now. He even wore the A on rotation this season. While his offensive numbers have never really taken that step forward, he remains a solid puck moving defenseman who can also contribute at the defensive end. What has made Quesnele effective and allowed him to play a key role, is his fearlessness and willingness to engage opposing forwards physically. He loves to take the body, which is what you like to see in your defenseman, regardless of size. Quesnele is another guy who's likely to return as an overager next season, where he'll try to lead an up and coming Greyhounds defense back to the playoffs. However, Quesnele did see some time in the ECHL this year following the regular season's completion.

5. Daniel Erlich - London Knights - Listed at 5'6
At 5'6, Erlich is the smallest player on this list, but he might also be the most skilled. Erlich is a solid all around offensive player who is elusive and finds the scoring areas. He isn't afraid to go into the middle of the ice or to the front of the net to make a play. With how deep London was this year, Erlich is likely to receive an increased role next season. And I expect him to improve his offensive numbers drastically (not like they were poor this season). I honestly wouldn't be surprised if he was in the top 10 in scoring next season, he's that talented.

4. Ryan Spooner - Peterborough Petes - Listed at 5'9
Spooner is the 2nd and last 1992 born rookie to make this list. He was largely very impressive in his first season in the OHL after being the 5th overall pick in the 2008 Priority draft. He shows explosive speed and offensive creativity, however I have to wonder if the best is yet to come. In my viewings this season, he seemed over matched at times and was unable due make room for himself to use his skill, because of size and strength inadequacies. But, like most 1992's, I'm sure Spooner will grow and continue to get stronger. I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up at around 5'10-5'11, 180, rather than the 5'9, 160lbs he's listed at now.

3. Dale Mitchell - Windsor Spitfires - Listed at 5'9
This little spark plug has been as advertised for the Windsor Spitfires, after coming over from Oshawa. Similar to Chris DeSousa, Mitchell has made his living by getting under the skin of opposing players, laying the body, and by using his wicked shot to pot goals. He was fantastic for Windsor in the OHL playoffs, sporting a rather stylish 70's porn stache. Mitchell, a 2007 draft pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs, has already signed with the Leafs and will be looking to make an impression at the pro level next season. However, his sights are currently set on trying to help Windsor win the Memorial Cup (although they aren't off to a great start).

2. Chris MacKinnon - Kitchener Rangers - Listed at 5'9
MacKinnon, for whatever reason, has had trouble finding a team to stay with. With three seasons of OHL hockey under his belt, MacKinnon is already on his 4th team. However, whatever the circumstances, MacKinnon has managed to produce offensively, netting 81 points for Kitchener this season, leading them in points by 15. This undersized forward can produce offensively, in particular as an excellent playmaker. While his pro career might be a little cloudy, one thing is for certain; if he returns as an overager to Kitchener next season, he should be among the league leaders in scoring. With all the talent Kitchener has coming in, and with the young talent they already have improving, MacKinnon could be right in the middle of things offensively for a very strong team.

1. Brett Parnham - Oshawa Generals - Listed at 5'9
It's hard to argue that the league's 2nd highest goal scorer from the 2008-09 season, isn't also the league's best "undersized" player. Voted in the Coaches Poll as the most dangerous player in the goal area, as well as having the best shot and the 3rd hardest shot, it's obvious at to where Parnham's talent lies. Parnham just plain ol' knows how to score. While his pro potential may be hurt by a lack of skating talent (in combination with his size issues), it's hard to argue over Parnham's OHL success. Should he return as an overager next season (instead of signing a professional contract), Parnham will likely be right up there again next season, a threat to score 50 in a league where few can do it.

Stay tuned for next week's Top 10!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My Final Top 50 OHL Players for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft - Part 3: 10-1

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.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Final Top 50 OHL Players for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft - Part 2: 30-11

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!

Monday, May 11, 2009

My Final Top 50 OHL Players for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft - Part 1: 50-31

With the OHL playoffs completed and only the Memorial Cup to be played, it is time to unveil my final ranking of the OHL players available for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Previously, in my early season and midseason rankings, I had only ranked 30 players. However, for my final list, I will be presenting you with a Top 50. The top 50 will be released in three parts: Part 1 - Prospects 50-31, Part 2 - Prospects 30-11, and Part 3 - Prospects 10-1.

Just for clarification, for my top 50 ranking, I haven't included any players eligible for draft re-entry, such as Plymouth goaltender Matt Hackett. This has been consistent all the way through my lists. Instead, I did a list of the top 10 draft re-entries, which can be found here.

Also for clarification, this list is my list of the top 50 OHL prospects, as if I were drafting for my own team. In other words, this isn't a list of where I THINK or believe players will go, but a ranking of my own opinion on the top players eligible for this draft based on my viewings this season. If you want a draft projection, buy the THN draft preview which hits shelves soon.

Without further ado, here are prospects 50 through 31...

50. Kyle Pereira - Defense - Brampton Battalion
Pereira had a very up and down season. Near the middle of the season, this OHL rookie was starting to look like a solid puck moving defenseman and was starting to earn serious minutes with Brampton, especially on the powerplay. However, for whatever reason, he really started to slow down as the season went along. The addition of Josh Day to the Brampton blueline did even more damage to his ice time, and in fact throughout most of the playoffs, he was a healthy scratch. Pereira is an average sized defender who has shown the ability to carry the puck and make things happen offensively. However, he desperately needs to add strength in order to properly contribute at the defensive end. For an offensive defenseman, he's also only an average skater. He was starting to get bullied around, and thus probably the explanation for his playoff scratch. Another reason could revolve around conditioning. A first year player, perhaps Pereira hit a wall. But if he gets stronger and improves his skating, he could end up developing into a decent prospect.

49. Brandon Foote - Goaltender - Guelph Storm
Not many players started as hot as this guy did at the beginning of the season for Brampton. A winner of 11 of his first 12 decisions, Foote looked like a prospect on the upswing, nailing down an OHL player of the week award in the 5th week of the season. However, it then started to unravel for the undersized netminder. He started getting exposed to the top of the net as players started to zero in on his habit of going down to early. Finally Brampton felt it needed an upgrade and sent Foote to Guelph as part of the Thomas McCollum trade. In Guelph, Foote's inconsistencies continued. Let's be clear, Foote has the ability to be a solid netminder. He is athletic, he can make the first save and he's shown that he can steal games. However, he's also shown numerous flaws in his mechanics, such as the flopping tendencies and lack of rebound control. As an undersized goaltender, it's even more important to be technically sound. Just take a look at a guy like Trevor Cann in London, whom I believe does a great job in that area. I don't think Foote will get himself drafted this year, however if he trains hard in the offseason and comes back strong for a likely solid Guelph team, he might have a chance to have a turn around similar to Matt Hackett.

48. Peter Hermenegildo - Defense - Sudbury Wolves
An undersized defenseman at 5'10, I've always come away impressed with Hermenegildo. He's a smooth skater who likes to bring the puck up the ice and is generally pretty successful at it. He's also good on the point on the powerplay where he brings a level of coolness to the point and does a great job of getting his shot through. Defensively, I find him to do an adequate job too. He makes an effort to be defensively responsible and is actually a pretty good positional defender. On the negative side, I find him to be careless with the puck at times, especially in his own end. I also think he picks bad times for pinches and gets caught. In the corners, his size and strength can come into question, especially against some of the bigger forwards in the OHL. However, I think he has potential to develop into a quality offensive blueliner, who can even be a more than adequate defender.

47. Cody Sol - Defense - Saginaw Spirit
At 6'5, 220lbs, Sol has the size NHL scouts drool over. For a man that size, his skating is actually good too. In fact, I would say he tends to use his mobility more to his advantage than his physical strength. He's a solid positional defender whom I think could stand to bully more guys around. That's not saying he isn't physical though, I'm just saying I think he could be even more of a bully on the ice. The problem with Sol lies in his complete lack of offensive game. He can be tentative with the puck and needs to improve his first pass out of the zone. Even in the NHL, stay at home guys need to be able to handle the puck for purposes in their own zone. Sol has potential as a stay at home defenseman, but he needs to improve his skills on the puck.

46. Alex Friesen - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
Friesen gets on this list with a very solid playoff performance for the Niagara IceDogs. The undersized forward is beginning to turn into a bit of a pest, getting in the face of opposing players and starting to throw his weight around. If he wants a career at the next level, he needs to continue to be a high energy player. Friesen is also a very good skater and a competent defensive forward. The problem with Friesen is that his offensive game was incredibly streaky this season and I question his ability to put up points long term, due to the fact that his hands haven't quite caught up with his skating ability. But in the playoffs, he took his offensive game to the next level and was consistently one of Niagara's most dangerous forwards, because he played with a constant high energy level. If he can work on bringing an up tempo game to the ice every night, he could develop into a very useful OHL player and perhaps even an NHL prospect.

45. Simon Gronvaldt - Defense - Kitchener Rangers
Gronvaldt was a defenseman that caught my attention near the early part of the season. The import from Denmark appeared to be a solid two way defenseman who showed a willingness to join the rush and make a first pass, as well as being able to handle his position defensively. A solid positional defender, Gronvaldt will never be mistaken for a physical defenseman, but he uses his size at 6'2, and skating ability, to keep opposing forwards in check. However, as the season wore on, he didn't really take the step forward you usually see imports take, at least in my opinion. I think he has more offensive potential than he has shown thus far, perhaps he just needs more confidence.

44. Daniel Erlich - Forward - London Knights
At 5'6, 150lbs, Erlich is one of the smallest players in the OHL. However he's also one of the only players at that size taking a regular shift and contributing. And the argument could be made that if he wasn't on a deep London squad, he'd be contributing even more. Erlich was a consistent offensive player for London this year and has outstanding hands and offensive instincts. He's a good skater who's elusive and tends to manage to not let his size hurt him a lot. He's willing to go into the danger areas and isn't afraid of anyone. Next season, with some graduations in London, I expect Erlich to become one of the top scorers for London and perhaps even the OHL. At 5'6, he has the odds against him for an NHL career, but you have to think he's going to keep pushing.

43. Chris Perugini - Goaltender - Ottawa 67's
Near the beginning of the season, I was much more confident in Perugini's chances of getting drafted. Now, I can't say the same. As the season went along, I think he began to get exposed. At 5'10, Perugini already has the cards stacked against him for being an undersized netminder. However, he has other problems too. In particular, his rebound control is just atrocious. He gives out rebounds like a broken gumball machine. This has lead to a tendency to scramble in his crease, where he then begins to make himself look a lot smaller in the net. On the plus size, he's incredibly athletic and very mobile. He does anticipate the play well and does a good job of challenging shooters to try and make himself look bigger. If he can cut down on the rebounds and the flopping, he could be fine. But he needs some work, and because of that, I'm not sure I see him getting drafted this year.

42. Scott Valentine - Defense - Oshawa Generals
Valentine is a player who's really jumped up a lot of draft lists lately. He went from being a seldom used defenseman in London to a top 4 defenseman in Oshawa after the Tavares trade. In Oshawa, Valentine began to show the things that got him drafted in the second round by London in 2007. He has the ability to bring the puck up the ice, contribute offensively and actually throws his body around and isn't afraid to drop the mitts. I think there is a lot of mystery surrounding him since he didn't get much ice time this year. I myself only saw him play once this year, and didn't really notice him other than the few things I've mentioned. Thus I can't rank him any higher than around this level. However, I'd expect a few NHL teams may have zeroed in on him (NHL Central Scouting has him 24th for OHL players) and he could go higher than many of the players I've ranked ahead of him.

41. Marc Zanetti - Defense - Ottawa 67's
Zanetti is a player I was very high on for most of the season. A 6'0, 200lbs defenseman who hits hard, wins battles in the corners, can skate adequately, run the powerplay and make a good first pass. I'm thinking, this guy is a solid prospect. However, similar to a guy like Kyle Pereira, this OHL rookie seemed to hit a wall around the later part of the season. I saw him a few times at the end of the season and then as well in the playoffs, and he was just atrocious every time. His puck skills appeared to vanish, he had been taken off the powerplay, he was taking stupid, undisciplined penalties due to lazyness and poor positioning. He just wasn't the same defenseman I was so impressed with at the beginning of the year. That being said, knowing that he was good at one time, and that he was an OHL rookie, you have to think he's got the potential to reach that level consistently and improve. So don't give up on him yet.

40. Bjorn Krupp - Defense - Belleville Bulls
I haven't been much of a fan the entire season, and this can be attested to by my previous ranking and game reports. However, I see the allure to him. He has the bloodlines and he's a more than competent defensive player who will take the body. As a stay at home defenseman, I don't expect him to be lighting up the scoreboard, however I do expect him to be able to handle the puck. He looks timid in making passes and will often opt to chop it out of the zone instead of regrouping or making a pass. In todays NHL, even stay at home defenseman have to be able to make solid passes out of the zone to stay with the pace, and I just don't see Krupp being able to do that. I will say one thing though, in the playoffs he was playing a quietly effective game and his puck skills did look somewhat improved. However, I'm just not blown away here.

39. Andrew Shaw - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
I'm not going to lie, this kid is one of my favourite players in the OHL. He's a treat to watch. He'll drop the gloves with anyone and is completely fearless. He hits hard, he gets under the skin of opposing players, he skates well and hard, and he's not that undersized at pushing 6'0. He played on the 4th line for most of the year, but anytime he was asked to take an increased role, he took full advantage of it, especially in the playoffs. But I absolutely feel that this kid's offensive skills and potential are a lot higher than the point totals he put up this year. He drives to the net with the puck on his stick and uses his body to protect it. He also works the cycle well and is actually a very good playmaker. If he didn't spend most of the season with guys on the 4th with no hands, he might have been able to double his assist total. I see a lot of potential in this kid as a pest with offensive flare. Another point in his favor is that he's one of the youngest players eligible for this draft and only played his first season in the OHL from Tier 2. He's going to get stronger and better at the game he likes to play.

38. Paul Bezzo - Defense - Owen Sound Attack
Bezzo is a smart, stay at home defenseman who uses his size well to bully around opponents. At 6'2, 190lbs, he isn't exactly your prototypical size for an NHL stay at home defenseman, but he has the skill to be. His skating is good for his size and he does an excellent job of shutting down the oppositions forwards. He's impoved his first pass too and does a good job of handling the puck in his own zone. My concern is that he's not the biggest guy in the world for the type of game he plays. So while he plays it well in the OHL, at 6'2, is he going to be able to transfer his physical shut down defender role to the NHL where the average forward now a days, is his size. And if he can't, does he have the necessary other skills to be able to play a different role? This concern makes me drop him in my ranking.

37. Jordan Mayer - Forward - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
I like Jordan Mayer as a player. Nearly everytime I've seen him play, I've come away impressed. He is a great skater who is not afraid to be the first guy in the zone battling for the puck, despite his size at 5'10. He has good all around offensive skills and appears to be a solid teammate. So why is he so low on my list? I'm just not sure where to place him in terms of NHL potential. I'm not sure he's skilled enough to play in the top 6 of an NHL team, but he also doesn't bring other intangibles to the table which make him an attracive bottom 6 forward. He needs to become more of a complete player and develop a niche, while continuing to improve his offensive production. While he is aggressive on the forecheck, he isn't a very effective player in the cycle, nor does he throw his body around. He also could stand to improve defensively. If he works on developing intangible skills and he takes a step forward offensively, I could see him becoming a potential NHL prospect, but as of right now, I can't help but see him as more of a tweener.

36. Tyler Hostetter - Defense - Erie Otters
A slighly undersized defenseman at 5'11, Hostetter is a tremendous skater who has the ability to rush the puck up the ice with ease. He isn't afraid to join the rush either, relying on his speed to get him back to the defensive zone. Defensively, he shows promise and is improving his positioning and anticipation. He is rough around the edges though. He can tend to pinch at the wrong times, and he has a tendency to get lazy at the defensive end and play the puck instead of the man. However, he has the offensive skill package you like to see in the NHL today. Considering he showed improvement over the course of the season, you have to believe he's going to continue to get better.

35. Michael Fine - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound
Fine was definitely one of the biggest OHL fallers for the draft this year. He started the year off pretty well and was considered to be among one of the top 15 players available from the OHL by many scouts. However the combination of playing for such a crappy Greyhounds team and his own offensive inconsistencies saw him drop considerably. He went from being the 10th ranked skater by CSB at the beginning of the year, to the 26th on the final. When he's on his game, Fine can be an effective offensive forward who forechecks hard and drives to the net. He also has some pest qualities about him and can get under the skin of opposing players. However, he just isn't able to contribute consistently. Unfortunately, he left the Under 18 Canadian team before the start of the tournament due to apparently family issues. This was of course unfortunate because he could have been able to increase his draft stock with a solid performance.

34. Michael Zador - Goaltender - Oshawa Generals
Another piece to the Tavares trade, Zador needed a fresh start after the former highly thought of prospect fell out of favor in London. Zador is wildly inconsistent and is very raw, but likely saved his draft stock with an excellent performance for team Canada at the Under 18's where he was a surprising starter. He is athletic and makes a good first save, but I have questions about his ability to anticipate the play and become the type of goaltender you depend on to help you win games. He also needs to work on his rebound control. So while I think he did raise his draft stock at the Under 18's, after a pretty bad year in the OHL, I wouldn't go claiming he's the next Jake Allen or anything. He still has a lot of question marks and remains a longshot at best.

33. Andrew Agozzino - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
I'll throw my hands up on this one. I absolutely do not understand the lack of draft support Agozzino is generating. Sure he's undersized a 5'9, but he's stocky and doesn't get pushed arounda lot. He's an above average skater who loves to get close to the net and isn't afraid to throw his body around. He's also got a very good shot, which he used to score 27 goals this year and lead Niagara in scoring both in the regular season and playoffs. On top of that, he penalty kills and isn't afraid to due the little things on the ice. Now granted, I do have concerns over his offensive potential at the next level due to some hockey sense questions, but he gives his all out on the ice and he produces. I think he has a shot at a pro career as an energy player.

32. Luke Judson - Forward - Belleville Bulls
Judson impressed me everytime I saw him this season. He doesn't get a lot of ice time, but makes the most of what he does get. He works hard and is very aggressive on the forecheck. He plays a lot bigger than he looks and drives hard to the net, showing good strength with the puck. I think that he has the potential to be a good player in this league. Over the course of the season he really improved and started to get more and more ice time from George Burnett. I think an NHL team would be smart to draft him with a late pick, as he'll look to make a bigger impact for Belleville next season with the departure of Tangradi, Cameron, Tanaka, Palmieri, and Mashinter.

31. William Wallen - Forward - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
The fact that we are still talking about Wallen as a draft prospect is a miracle in itself, since we almost lost him due to a brain aneurysm earlier this season. However, the undersized forward battled hard and returned to the ice after Christmas, continuing what he started before the incident, which was being an important producer of secondary offense for St. Mike's. This little guy is a wizard with the puck and he bounces all over the ice and involves himself in every play. However, I have some concerns. For one, his skating just isn't as great as I like to see from a severely undersized forward like himself. In particular, his acceleration is not great, which means he's going to have trouble seperating himself from defenders at the next level. Perhaps, he needs that offseason of training to get his legs back under him after missing so much time, but regardless I believe it to be the reason he's currently unranked by CSB. That being said, he had a very good Under 18's and showed his ability to compete with the best of his peers. Hopefully he returns to Mississauga next season and is able to be among their scoring leaders, drafted or not drafted.

Stay tuned for players 30-11 tomorrow!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday Top 10 - Playoff Performers

With the OHL Playoffs coming to an end Friday night, it's only fitting that this week's Sunday Top 10 takes a look at the top performers of this years playoffs. This was a hard list to make because so many players stepped up their games this year. However, here's what I think...

10. John Carlson - London Knights
Carlson was outstanding for London in the playoffs this year, his first time going to the OHL playoffs. Posting 7 goals, 15 assists and a +11 rating, Carlson was the second highest scoring defenseman of the playoffs, behind Windsor's Ryan Ellis. Carlson's ppg average was actually slightly higher than Ellis'. His 22 points also lead the Knights in scoring.In past years, the Knight's defense had taken some criticism in the playoffs for not quite playing well enough, so Carlson's (and the rest of the defense) effort was huge this year to push London to the West final. Carlson has since moved on to the AHL where he's actually playing with Hershey in their quest for the Calder Cup, already scoring a game winning goal for them.

9. J.P. Anderson - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
Sure Mississauga only made it to the Eastern semi final, but the reason for that was the play of this young, 1993 born rookie. After veteran starter Chris Carrozzi faltered at the beginning of the team's first round series with Barrie, Majors Coach Dave Cameron turned to Anderson to get the Majors further in the playoffs. The rookie was up to the test, playing out of this world in the net for the Majors. The Majors ended up losing to the eventual Eastern Champion Brampton Battalion in a hard fought 6 game series in the second round, however Anderson's effort can not go overlooked. With the OHL playoffs over, his 2.50 GAA is still tops among playoff goalies, and his .928 SV% is right up near the top. With his performance at the Under 17's and now in the playoffs, this somewhat undersized goaltender is quickly making himself a serious prospect for the 2010 NHL entry draft.

8. Tyler Seguin - Matt Caria - Chris Terry - Plymouth Whalers
After finishing the OHL regular season as the hottest line in the league, these three carried it over to the playoffs, steamrolling the Sarnia Sting in the first round and coming close against the eventual OHL Champion Spitfires in the second round. They finished the playoffs with a combined 21 goals, and 26 assists in 11 games. Outside of Ryan Hayes, the Plymouth secondary scoring just wasn't occuring, so these three had to take over games, and take over games they did.

7. Nick Palmieri - Belleville Bulls
After a somewhat underwhelming regular season, Palmieri absolutely exploded in the playoffs for Belleville. He finished the playoffs with 14 goals, 2nd overall for the playoffs, 3 of which were game winners. While the big guns in Eric Tangradi, and Luke Pither, among others were solid for Belleville too, they needed someone like Palmieri to step up to provide that secondary scoring. It's only the wish of this blogger that Palmieri play like that all the time. He has the ability to take over games with his physical abilities, however he seldom does so. Hopefully at the next level, he's able to make a more consistent contribution.

6. Cody Hodgson - Brampton Battalion
Hodgson, as always, was fantastic for Brampton in this years playoffs, cementing the fact that he's one of the best players not currently in the NHL. He finished the playoffs as the 3rd leading scorer and was obviously a huge reason Brampton was able to reach the OHL finals. I wish him the best in Vancouver next season, as I can all but guarentee he won't be back in Brampton next season for another playoff run.

5. Phil Varone - London Knights
Varone may not have lead the Knights in scoring, but he was certainly critical in the team's push for the Western Championship. He finished tied with John Tavares with 10 goals in 14 games, however he had 3 of the teams 9 game winning goals. He was also +17. Varone, always a solid secondary scoring threat, stepped up huge to become a primary scoring threat in the playoffs. The undersized forward may have done a lot to help his draft stock for the 2009 draft with his performance in the playoffs.

4. Ryan Ellis - Windsor Spitfires
The reigning OHL defenseman of the year did nothing to disappoint in this years playoffs, finishing tied for third in playoff scoring with 31 points. He also finished the playoffs at +16 and largely stepped up his defensive game, which has taken some lashings in the past few months. There are still some doubts as to where Ellis is going to go in the 2009 NHL draft, however I'm sure scouts were in attendance to see him play in the playoffs, and you had to think most of them came away pretty impressed with the way he was able to step up his game to yet another level.

3. Andrei Loktionov - Windsor Spitfires
The second leading scorer in the playoffs, Loktionov stepped up huge for the Spits, adding yet another element to its already dominant offense. The super skilled Russian upped his ppg average from 1.30 to 1.65 in the playoffs and is really starting to generate a lot of buzz about his offensive ability. Loktionov also finished the playoffs at a league leading +18, implying even further his dominance while on the ice.

2. Matt Duchene - Brampton Battalion
Scouts have to be drooling all over this kid. Redline Report has even gone so far as to suggest he's a better professional prospect than John Tavares. His playoff performance goes a long way to support their claim. Duchene finished with 14 goals (tied for 2nd) and 26 points. However, 6 of his goals were game winners, meaning Duchene scored nearly half of Brampton's game winning goals in the playoffs. His clutch play earns him this spot on the list. I think he pretty much locked up his spot in the top 5 of the NHL draft.

1. Taylor Hall - Windsor Spitfires
How can you argue with the OHL's selection as playoff MVP? Hall was fantastic for Windsor, leading the playoffs in goals with 16 and points with 36. Even more so, Hall erases some of the doubts after last year's disappointing play in the first round. He's showed that he's matured as a player and become the leader of the best team in the OHL. If he keeps playing the way he has, I can't see how anyone else but Hall can be the first overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft.
Stay tuned for next week's Top 10, where I'll take a look at the best "mini mights" in the OHL.