Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday Top 10 - 2009 NHL Draft Surprises

With the 2009 NHL Entry Draft behind us, it is time to take a look at the draft a little more closely. All in all, it was an incredibly successful one for the OHL with 45 players selected in the weekend's 7 rounds. For those number crunchers out there, that's just over 20%. One fifth of the players selected were from the Ontario Hockey League.

For me, it was a bit of a strange draft. A lot of interesting things happened, and there were a lot of surprises and disappointments. Thus, today's Top 10 will take a look at those interesting things, surprises, and disappointments. Obviously, since this is an OHL blog, the list will focus on the surprises for the Ontario Hockey League as it relates to the draft. However, the list can also serve as my commentary on the draft as a whole.

So here we go, the top 10 2009 NHL Draft surprises...

10. Calvin de Haan Goes 12th to the New York Islanders
For any other follower of the NHL draft, this occurrence would probably be up near the top 3 of draft surprises. But for me, it's only a mild surprise. Obviously, I've been a big supporter of Calvin this entire season. I had him ranked 4th ahead of the likes of Kadri, Kassian, and Holland (2 of which he went before). His intelligent play with and without the puck obviously caught the eye of the Islanders too, since they traded up to make sure they got him. Calvin was ranked in the 20's by pretty much every scouting agency, so I'm sure this comes as more of a shock to them. But it's why it made this list, even though it failed to shock me. Congrats to Calvin in finally getting the attention he deserves.

9. Jamie Devane Who?
At the beginning of the third round, the Toronto Maple Leafs took Jamie Devane with the 68th overall pick. This had a lot of people scratching their head, me included. It also had a lot of people, in particular Leafs fans, asking the question, "who exactly is this guy?" Devane is a big OHL rookie winger from Plymouth who failed to crack my top 50 OHL players eligible (and quite frankly didn't even get consideration). One thing is clear about Devane, he loves to fight. He had 19 fights this season and is definitely one of the tougher customers in the OHL (here is a fight against Brian Shaw of Erie). That being said, I'm not sure I see the offensive upside, at least to warrant a top three round selection. I generally have a problem when NHL teams take heavyweights with high selections, because every year good prospects cut from the same cloth can be found as free agents. Just look at the Sharks signing of Brandon Mashinter as proof. But we all know that Brian Burke likes size and physical tools, and it's obvious his scouting staff sees more in Devane than just another George Parros for Burke.

8. Casey Cizikas Goes in the Top 100
Consider this a good surprise. You've got to be happy for Casey to be the first pick of the 4th round at 92, again to the New York Islanders. You have to wonder if Garth Snow and his scouting staff have been reading my blog! Cizikas has been heavily scrutinized after originally being touted as a potential high selection at the beginning of the season. Most scouts had a lot of problems with his consistency and effort level. However, I've been a big supporter, probably one of the few. He's always impressed me when I've seen him play and I think he has a lot to offer to an NHL team. That being said, this is a surprise because for all intents and purposes, I expected him to fall at the NHL draft, regardless of how high I personally was on him. There has to be a huge weight lifted off Casey's shoulders now that he's gotten drafted, and drafted fairly high.

7. Darren Archibald Goes Undrafted
Come on Garth Snow, you grab the other two guys I've been high on, but not Mr. Archibald? Surely Darren would have been a better 5th round pick than Anton Klementyev! All kidding aside, it surprised me greatly that Darren went undrafted. I had him as the 2nd best draft re-entry from the OHL heading into the draft. Then 11 OHL draft re-entries went instead of him! To me, Darren has all the qualities NHL teams usually look for. He's a big guy who moves well, has good hands, and is developing a sense of using his size. I thought he looked very good for an OHL rookie playing his first season from Tier 2. Had an excellent playoff series. I see a lot of potential in him and I'm not the only one. Redline had him in the mid 100's if I'm not mistaken. ISS was high on him, as I heard an interview with Mike Oke where he stated Archibald was his late round sleeper. With Barrie apparently loading up for a run next year, Archibald could have a really good season in 2009-10. He can only hope then that he can be among those drafted. Fortunately there are many routes to the NHL.

6. The Fall of Ethan Werek
I know I was higher on Werek than most, (having him ranked 5th for OHL eligibles), but I still expected him to be a late first or early second round pick. However he ended up lasting till mid way through the 2nd, where the Rangers finally took him off the board. Sure the skating could use a bit of improvement, but it's not terrible. If you read his blog over at Coming Down the Pipe (here), you'll notice how well spoken he is. A smart and goal oriented kid, it's pretty clear that Werek will continueto devote himself to improvement. I see a kid who scored the third most goals among draft eligible players (behind John Tavares and the undrafted Chris DeSousa), and I wonder how some fail to see his potential as a top 6 forward. I think it's pretty obvious to say that I think the Rangers got one heck of a steal in round 2 with this talented young man.

5. Bryan Cameron = No Such Luck
I was incredibly surprised when the Los Angeles Kings didn't sign him to a contract before the June 1st deadline. I was even more surprised when no one took him on Saturday, as he re-entered the draft (along with 6 others from the OHL failing to a receive a contract from the OHL). Look, I know he's undersized at 5'10. And I realize that the type of game he plays will be hard to translate to the NHL due to his size. But how many players have scored three straight 30 goal seasons, and have been to two straight OHL all star games? He brings a lot of things to the table. I'm sure he gets an invite to an NHL training camp and he needs to show that team he's worth a contract. If not he'll be back in the OHL as an overager, however not likely in Belleville as they go full blown into a rebuild. I think it'd be a real shame for him to fall through the cracks after being such a high NHL pick originally, considering the OHL career he's had thus far. The four guys he's posing with in the picture, all got NHL contracts, which has to make him feel left out.

4. Kyle Neuber Gets Drafted
I mean no offense to Kyle Neuber when I mention him in this article. But for him to get drafted, it surprises me greatly. This goes back to my rant before about teams spending picks on heavyweight prospects, when so many are available as free agents. Kyle is an excellent fighter, one of the top heavyweights in the OHL (here's a clip to show you why). But how much of an NHL future does he have? His offensive skills aren't good enough to make him a regular contributor at the OHL level, let alone the NHL level. His skating isn't great. Basically, he brings little to the table save being an enforcer. And I thought the NHL was getting away from putting "true" enforcers on their 4th line. Yet, this NHL draft we saw a large number of enforcer type prospects being drafted, including Neuber to Columbus in the 7th round. It all seems odd to me.

3. No Love for Undersized Forwards
Somewhat related to the rant on heavyweight prospects, comes the surprise that so few skilled, undersized forwards were drafted. And those that were, were drafted late. Undersized defenseman seemed to be at a premium, Ryan Ellis, de Haan, Tyson Barrie, Sami Vatanen all went well. But the talented undersized forwards? Alex Hutchings, whom many had pegged as an NHL second rounder, falls to the 4th round. Phil Varone, one of the best players in the OHL playoffs, to the 5th round. Chris DeSousa, who scored the 2nd most goals behind John Tavares among OHL draft eligibles, undrafted. Brett Parnham, the OHL's goal leader and draft re-entry, not drafted. Andrew Agozzino, William Wallen, Jordan Mayer, Daniel Erlich, all undrafted. OHL players weren't the only ones effected. Kellan Tochkin, the WHL's rookie scoring leader for Everett, also fell victim to the undrafted list. So in an era when undersized forwards are excelling like never before in the NHL, why are so few being drafted?

2. OHL Goaltenders Get Knocked Down
While the goaltending crop for this years NHL draft didn't have a great reputation for being excellent, there were several OHL goaltenders slated to be high picks. OHL netminders occupied 3 of the top 5 spots on the Central Scouting's top NA goalies ranking. However, Plymouth Whalers goaltender Matt Hackett ended up being the 5th netminder taken in the draft (77th to Minnesota), despite being touted as possibly the top goalie available. The fall was more dramatic for the others. Edward Pasquale, who was so good for Saginaw this year, fell to the end of the 4th round, while Scott Stajcer and Michael Zador fell to the end of the 5th round. Barrie's Peter Di Salvo, Ottawa's Chris Perugini and Guelph's Brandon Foote all went undrafted. On the positive side, Erie netminder Jaroslav Janus finally heard his name called in the 6th, after being passed over in previous NHL drafts. For whatever reason, NHL scouts must have been down on North American goaltenders, as despite going 77th, Hackett was actually the first North American goalie taken. Four European netminders went before him, as early as the first pick of the 2nd round (the gigantic Mikko Koskinen to Long Island).

1. The Number of 1989 Born Players Drafted
While I'm not going to do the math, all it takes is one glance at the full NHL draft list to see the sheer volume of players drafted with a 1989 birth date. These players had been passed over in two previous NHL drafts, yet there progression caught the eye of NHL scouts enough to warrant a draft pick. To me, it seems like more 1989 born players went in the last 100 picks, than first year eligible 1991's. This is truly bizarre, as most years no more than a dozen of these types go. Just to give you an idea. Last year for the OHL, 3 1988's went (Andrew Campbell, Justin Azevedo, and Justin DiBenedetto). This year, 9 1989 players went (Janus, Kolomatis, Kennedy, Macdermaid, Neuber, Timmins, Cowick, Nolan and Pelech). That's quite the large jump. Perhaps we're seeing a shift in NHL draft philosophy. With the three year window to draft players, perhaps teams are going to start looking more at those late bloomers as draft options. Or maybe this year is an outlier.

Just like to say, Congrats to those 45 OHL players drafted. And to the many more who didn't hear your named called, take a good look at those nine 1989 born players drafted. They are the reason to not give up. They are the reason to push harder and improve, because NHL scouts are always watching.

Big day on Tuesday as the CHL Import Draft goes, where teams will look for the next Evgeni Grachev and Andrei Loktionov. I'll have coverage of that. Also stay tuned for next Sunday's Top 10, where I'll be profiling my early look at the top 10 for 2010!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The 2009 NHL Entry Draft

Well the 2009 NHL Entry Draft is a little over 24 hours away, are you excited? I know that it's one of my favourite events of the year (hard to guess right?).

I'll be keeping track of the draft here on the blog, by way of a spreadsheet that you can find below. It's primarily organized by my top 50. Also included are my list of the top draft re-entries, as well as players not signed by NHL teams from the 2007 draft. And of course, by the wild chance that an NHL team selects a player outside of my top 50, I'll be including them too.

Below the spreadsheet can be found the full links to my top 50 write up, as well as the rankings write ups by blog contributors Sean Keogh and Ryan Yessie.

My Rank Player Name PO OHL Team NHL Team RD Pick
1 John Tavares F London NYI
2 Matt Duchene F Brampton COL
3 Ryan Ellis D Windsor NSH
4 Calvin de Haan D Oshawa NYI
5 Ethan Werek F Kingston NYR
6 Zack Kassian F Peterborough BUF
7 Nazem Kadri F London TOR
8 Peter Holland F Guelph ANA
9 Edward Pasquale G Saginaw ATL
10 Ryan O'Reilly F Erie COL
11 Scott Stajcer G Owen Sound NYR
12 Alex Hutchings F Barrie TBL
13 Casey Cizikas F Mississauga NYI
14 Matt Clark D Brampton ANA
15 Taylor Doherty D Kingston SJS
16 Jordan Szwarz F Saginaw PHX
17 Michael Latta F Guelph NSH
18 Taylor Beck F Guelph NSH
19 Jesse Blacker D Windsor TOR
20 Marcus Foligno F Sudbury BUF
21 Brett Flemming D Mississauga WSH
22 Kyle Clifford F Barrie LAK
23 Phil Varone F London SJS
24 Tyler Randell F Kitchener BOS
25 Garrett Wilson F Owen Sound FLA
26 Chris DeSousa F Niagara

27 Ben Chiarot D Guelph ATL
28 Beau Schmitz D Plymouth

29 Matthew Tipoff F Belleville

30 Peter Di Salvo G Barrie

31 William Wallen F Mississauga

32 Luke Judson F Belleville

33 Andrew Agozzino F Niagara

34 Michael Zador G Oshawa TBL
35 Michael Fine F Sault Ste. Marie

36 Tyler Hostetter D Erie

37 Jordan Mayer F Mississauga

38 Paul Bezzo D Owen Sound

39 Andrew Shaw F Niagara

40 Bjorn Krupp D Belleville

41 Marc Zanetti D Ottawa

42 Scott Valentine D Oshawa ANA
43 Chris Perugini G Ottawa

44 Daniel Erlich F London

45 Simon Gronvaldt D Kitchener

46 Alex Friesen F Niagara

47 Cody Sol D Saginaw ATL
48 Peter Hermenegildo D Sudbury

49 Brandon Foote G Guelph

50 Kyle Pereira D Brampton

1 Matt Hackett G Plymouth MIN
2 Darren Archibald F Barrie

3 Luke Pither F Barrie

4 Jason Akeson F Kitchener

5 Jaroslav Janus G Erie TBL
6 Matt Kennedy F Guelph CAR
7 Shawn Szydlowski F Erie

8 Brett Parnham F Oshawa

9 David Kolomatis D Owen Sound LAK
10 Dan Kelly D Kitchener

1 Bryan Cameron F Belleville

2 Jacob Muzzin D Sault Ste. Marie

3 Justin Taylor F London

4 Josh Unice G Windsor

5 Zach Torquato F Erie

6 Corey Syvret D Guelph

7 Richard Greenop F Windsor

N/A Jamie Devane
N/A Lane Macdermid
N/A Andy Bathgate
N/A Michael Pelech
N/A Corey Cowick
N/A Scott Timmins
N/A David Shields
N/A Daniel Maggio
N/A Eric Wellwood
N/A Jordan Nolan
Sault Ste. Marie
Barron Smith
Kyle Neuber

As promised, here are the links you need to our draft write ups...

You can find mine here, here, and here.

You can find Sean Keogh's here.

You can find Ryan Yessie's here.

You can find my draft re-entry article here.

You can find the article on unsigned 2007 draftees here.

And finally, in case you are curious, you can find the final NHL Central Scouting Rankings here.


EDIT - Link to the full NHL draft results is here

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Top 10 - Biggest Draft Risers

As you may recall, last week's Sunday Top 10 ranked the biggest draft fallers over the course of the 2008-09 OHL season. Today, we will rank the draft risers. These are the players who saw their stock increase the most over the course of the 2008-09 season.

Here is the top 10:

10. Brett Flemming - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
Flemming is perhaps a bit of a reach for a list like this because he still could go undrafted. However, I think he did enough this season to warrant a look from scouts. Not the biggest defenseman out there at 5'10, 165lbs, Flemming proved that he could handle both ends of the rink. He moves the puck well, skates well, is developing some intensity and showed that at this level, his size isn't a detriment. As the season went along, he really developed and became the Majors 2nd most important defenseman behind OHL all star Cameron Gaunce. Progressing from part time OHL player to top pairing defenseman earns him a spot on this list. Without that progression and improvement, he doesn't get a sniff from NHL scouts.

9. Scott Valentine - Oshawa Generals
Valentine's rise in the draft rankings was pretty much done in the final third of the season. Not many guys rise like that without their team making the OHL playoffs. Valentine started the year stuck on the deep London Knight blueline and was earning little playing time. As part of the John Tavares trade, Valentine exploded in Oshawa with a larger role. With good size, offensive ability, and an aggressive nature, it's all a matter of whether that small sample size in Oshawa (26 games) is enough to impress the scouts. Judging from the fact that he went from unranked (210 spots available) to ranked 110 in the final ranking of the NHL's Central Scouting, he's getting that attention. Don't be surprised if this guy gets his named called in the first three rounds, well ahead of some of the others I personally have ranked ahead of him.

8. Darren Archibald - Barrie Colts
Archibald went undrafted last year while playing in the OPJHL on the stacked Stouffville Spirit team that included Ethan Werek and Corey Trivino. That summer, he was drafted as a mature pick in the 7th round of the 2008 OHL Priority draft by the Barrie Colts. Suiting up for Barrie this season did wonders for him. He emerged as one of the team's best forwards, finishing third in points and third in goals with 25. He performed even better in the playoffs, leading Barrie in scoring with 4 goals and 7 points in 5 games. Archibald has NHL size at 6'3, and is still learning how to use his frame. But he shows glimpses of possible power forward development, driving hard to the net and using his body. I think this guy goes higher than expected next weekend.

7. Kyle Clifford - Barrie Colts
Another Barrie forward, Clifford didn't necessarily wow scouts with his OHL season, where he finished with 16 goals and 28 points. However, his performance at the 2009 Under 18's did. He showcased his strong work ethic and ability to play hard, hanging in there against the cream of the crop of his age group. While he largely profiles as a character forward at the next level, some believe he has some offensive potential. I know of one scouting agency that has him inside their top 50 for the draft, which suggests he could be a selection in the top three rounds as well.

6. Taylor Beck - Guelph Storm
A former second round pick in the OHL Priority draft by Guelph, Beck exploded offensively this season after putting up moderate numbers in his rookie year. He finished 4th in scoring for Guelph and managed to earn himself a lot of NHL draft attention in the process. While his skating needs work, and some question his NHL upside, he remains an attractive selection due to the fact that his hard work creates scoring chances.

5. Matt Duchene - Brampton Battalion
OK, I know, somewhat odd seeing Duchene on this list given that he's always been considered a top 10 pick for 2009. However, Duchene came into the season as just that; a guy being considered as a top 10 selection. He finishes the season and goes into the draft as someone being pegged as a top 3 selection. Duchene's play in Brampton this season leaves some believing he could be the best player out of this draft class. Redline Report has him ranked second ahead of John Tavares. I've seen mock drafts recently that have the Islanders selecting him first overall. Duchene came a long way this season and really cemented his status as a franchise prospect.

4. Scott Stajcer - Owen Sound Attack
Last season, Stajcer played 6 games in the OHL, struggling badly. This season he begun playing very little behind high NHL draft pick Tyler Beskorowany. But as the season went along, Stajcer began to get better and better, and subsequently he earned himself into a platoon role. A big goalie, Stajcer needs to refine his mechanics, but he's showcased the ability to win, and even steal hockey games. While not appearing at the Under 18's had to have been a disappointment to a lot of scouts, I don't expect Stajcer to last outside the top 100.

3. Matt Clark - Brampton Battalion
Clark went from playing in the OPJHL last season to being one of the top defenseman on the best team in the Eastern Conference this year. Clark's big body, in combination with his mobility and physical presence makes him a very attractive selection for NHL clubs. While his offensive upside remains a bit of a mystery, he has the makings of a quality stay at home defenseman in the mold of a guy like Brooks Orpik, who was instrumental in helping the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup.

2. Matt Hackett - Plymouth Whalers
After playing sparingly with Plymouth last season, Hackett failed to be selected in the 2008 NHL entry draft. This season, he came back strong and determined to prove scouts wrong. Hackett's strong play eventually led Plymouth to deal starter Jeremy Smith, and he proceeded to lead them to the 2nd round of the OHL playoffs. Hackett's strong play during both the regular season and playoffs earned him the top spot among North American goalies on the NHL's Central Scouting list. Don't expect him to fall through another draft.

1. Calvin de Haan - Oshawa Generals
Originally an undersized offensive defenseman when he was drafted in the 3rd round of the OHL draft in 2007, de Haan blossomed into a budding star with Oshawa this season. It was quite the year for Calvin who cracked the Generals roster for the first time, quickly became their top defenseman, made the OHL all star game, and was finally named to the 2009 Under 18 team for Canada. Despite putting up 63 points and a plus rating on a terrible Oshawa team, it was not until the Under 18's where Calvin really began to catch the eye of scouts. He was arguably Canada's best defenceman and one of the best defenceman in the tournament. Expect Calvin's great year to continue with a selection in the first round of the 2009 NHL entry draft next weekend.

Next Sunday's Top 10 will most likely focus on the NHL Entry Draft and be written after its conclusion. Expect something along the lines of, "Biggest surprises at the Entry Draft."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday Top 10 - Biggest Draft Fallers

With the 2009 NHL Entry Draft on the horizon (2 weeks away), it is time to take a look at some of the biggest movers and shakers in the Ontario Hockey League this season. So consider this another two part Sunday Top 10. Today, we will examine the biggest draft fallers. The players who made this list, for varying reasons, found themselves tumbling down the NHL Draft list this season, after being held in some regard previously. Next Sunday's Top 10 will examine the biggest draft risers; those players who greatly improved their stock this season with solid performances.

Here are your top 10 Draft Fallers.

10. Vern Cooper - Plymouth Whalers
A little guy with a lot of heart, a lot of people expected Cooper to pick up his offensive game this season and become a legitimate secondary scoring threat behind the likes of Chris Terry. His sandpaper and energy game made some believe he had the chance to be a solid draft prospect, despite being a late 1990. However, this season saw little improvement in his offensive game. Cooper's offensive stats actually declined slightly. This is not the type of progression you like to see in a late 1990 draft eligible forward. For all the intangibles Cooper brings to the ice, it is beginning to look like his chances at a professional hockey career are slim to none. I did not rank Cooper in my top 50 eligible players for the draft.

9. Bjorn Krupp - Belleville Bulls/Barron Smith - Peterborough Petes
OK, I cheated a bit. It's a top 11. But I felt like these two players had a lot in common with each other and their inclusion on the list made sense as a pair. Firstly, they both have NHL bloodlines. Bjorn Krupp's father is longtime and former NHL defender Uwe Krupp. Barron Smith's father is former Edmonton Oilers great Steve Smith. Secondly, both were playing in their first seasons in the OHL with a fair amount of hype after playing previously in the United States. And lastly, both disappointed in their play this season. The two combined for 6 points on the back end this year. While neither was billed as the second coming of Bryan Fogarty, the fact that they were able to make such a small impact on the ice is alarming. Krupp plays a safe game, but his relative lack of puck skills hurts him greatly and his upside is severely limited. For that reason, he took a dive on a lot of lists. Smith was unable to play his way on to a deep London blueline and was eventually traded to Peterborough (as part of the Trevor Cann deal). While their bloodlines may still get them drafted, there is no question that they will go a lot lower than they would have if they had stronger seasons.

8. Michael Latta - Guelph Storm
Probably the most debatable inclusion on this list, Latta is still considered to be a strong bet for a top 60 selection. However, more was expected of him this season and I think he did a lot more harm than good to his draft stock this season. Originally thought to be the leader of the 67's offense this season with Logan Couture, Latta demanded a trade part way into the season and was shipped to Guelph. In Guelph, his offensive production declined in the more defensive system. On top of that, his skating deficiencies really garnered a lot of attention this season. As I said, Latta is still expected to be a top 2 round selection. That being said, it would not surprise me to see him fall into the middle round similar to the way Zack Torquato did in 2007.

7. Daniel Maggio - Sudbury Wolves
The 7th overall selection in the 2007 Priority draft, a lot was expected of Maggio. A package of size, skill and aggression made him an attractive piece to the blueline. However in his time in the OHL, Maggio has not been able to put everything together. His hockey sense has been heavily questioned (by many including myself), and subsequently his ability to improve. He took few steps forward this season, one which was mired with a knee injury. That being said, he has potential should someone be able to bring it out of him.

6. Chris Perugini - Ottawa 67's
Brother of former OHL goaltender Andrew Perugini, Chris was being billed as one of the top goaltenders the OHL had available for this draft. He played very well for Ottawa last season as a rookie and came into this season in a platoon role with Boston prospect Adam Courchaine. He had a solid first two months, outplaying Courchaine and was looking like he was going to steal the starting spot. However, as the season went along, Perugini began to struggle badly. Part of this can be blamed on an inconsistent 67's defense. But a big portion can be blamed on Perugini and the opposing teams beginning to take advantage of his shortcomings. Perugini is athletically sound enough, but he has a tendency to flop around in his crease and has among the worst rebound control in the OHL. Teams begun to take advantage of this and he was getting lit up. I'd be surprised now if he even gets drafted, but if he can improve his mechanics, he has the potential to be a pro goaltender.

5. Michael Fine - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
I think a lot of the reasons Fine saw his stock drop this season were secondary to his play. He put up half decent stats and showcased an ability to be a hard nosed forward prospect with skill. Of course, he needs to be a more consistent offensive threat, but that can be said about a lot of players available for the draft. So why did he fall this year? For one, the Greyhounds were terrible and didn't generate a lot of attention. As always, it is tougher for players (especially secondary players like Fine), to stand out on bad teams in their draft years. Then there was Fine's disappearance from the Under 18 team. Originally named to the team, Fine left for undisclosed personal reasons (replaced with Peter Holland). This tournament could have been huge for Fine, as a chance to play with and against better players. A strong showing at the tournament (like Kyle Clifford had), could have vaulted him back into top three round consideration.

4. Brandon Foote - Guelph Storm
Foote started off the season really well with the Brampton Battalion. He wrestled the starting goaltender position away from NHL draft pick Patrick Killeen and posted one loss in the first three months of the season. He was even named OHL player of the week for October 19th. He was starting to generate a lot of buzz around the scouting community. But things spiraled for the worse as 2008 drew to a close. Eventually Brampton realized they needed an upgrade and shipped Foote to Guelph as part of the Thomas McCollum trade. In Guelph, Foote continued to be wildly inconsistent. Things got even worse for Foote when he failed to place on the NHL's Central Scouting Final Rankings and looks like a real long shot to be drafted, despite such a strong showing to start his OHL career.

3. Marcus Foligno - Sudbury Wolves
With a 70 point season from Nick in his draft year with Sudbury, a lot more was expected of Marcus offensively this season. He finished with only 12 goals on the year and got a lot of flak for his lack of involvement in every game. I think what needs to be remembered is that Marcus is one of the youngest players eligible for the draft. Nick, when he put up 70 points and went in the first round, was almost a full year older than Marcus was in his 2nd OHL season. At the same age, Nick actually put up pretty similar OHL stats. But you can't ignore the plunge Marcus took in most rankings this year, despite perhaps a raw deal. The big test will be next season, where Marcus will show the NHL team who drafts him, how much offensive ability he has.

2. Casey Cizikas - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
The former 3rd overall selection in the 2007 Priority draft, a lot was expected of Cizikas this year after a very strong rookie season. He followed that up with a solid performance at the 2008 Ivan Hlinka tourney. But this season was a step back for him. Offensively, he failed to match his stats of his rookie season and he was never able to become that consistent offensive threat Mississauga needed. He also received a lot of flak for his play without the puck and his effort level on a consistent basis. Even with a good playoffs this year, I'm not sure he saved his draft stock. Obviously, I'm a big fan of his abilities and have been vocal of that this season. But I appear to be pretty alone, which is a testament to how the inconsistency of his play has effected his draft ranking.

1. Taylor Doherty - Kingston Frontenacs
While Cizikas stock may have seen a more significant drop, Doherty earns first on this list because of where his "drop" lies. This big defenceman received a lot of attention for his play in his first OHL season last year, and went into this season as a guy with the potential to go in the NHL lottery. But Doherty never took that step forward, as was expected. Offensively, he had a disappointing season, failing to match his stats from his rookie year. Defensively, he was exposed as a poor lateral mover and an undisciplined aggressor. In many cases, Doherty took a step backwards this season, rather than forwards. This caused his drop from potential lottery selection to possible third round selection.

Stay tuned, as next Sunday we brighten the mood by looking at the top draft risers!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Unsigned 2007 NHL Draftees

June 1 was the deadline for NHL teams to sign their 2007 draft picks to entry level contracts in order to retain their rights. Should a player not be signed, he would have two options depending on his current birth year. If the player was born in 1989, they will re-enter the draft in hopes of being selected again. If the player was born in 1988 or before, they become unrestricted free agents, free to sign with any team. Should one of those players born in 1989 slip through the draft upon re-entering, they to will become free agents. Those 1989 born players would obviously be free to return to the OHL next season as overagers in hopes of earning that contract as well.

Now that the deadline has passed, let's take a look at the seven OHL players who failed to receive a contract. All seven are 1989 born players and are eligible to re-enter the NHL draft in hopes of being re-selected.

Richard Greenop - Windsor Spitfires
Josh Unice - Windsor Spitfires
Zach Torquato - Erie Otters
Corey Syvret - Guelph Storm
Bryan Cameron - Belleville Bulls
Jacob Muzzin - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Justin Taylor - London Knights

  • No surprises on Greenop, Unice, and Syvret IMO. Greenop, a good enforcer is no skilled or a good enough skater to be an effective NHL player. I'm sure he gets picked up as an overager next year for someone, although I doubt it's Windsor. Unice had a really poor year after starting off his OHL career well in Kitchener. I think he'll be back in the OHL as an overager, and should he rebound and play well, I could see him earning a professional contract. And Corey Syvret never took that big step forward offensively his brother Danny did. Dependable and intelligent defenseman, but IMO, not an NHL quality defender. I bet he returns to help anchor Guelph's blueline as an overager.
  • Not really surprised about Zach Torquato either, even though I was kind of hoping he'd get one. In reality, his game just didn't improve enough since being drafted. In fact, his point toals have gone down every year since. That being said, I like him as a player. He plays hard, has decent offensive skills and has developed into a leader for Erie. However, as an NHL player, I'm not sure he'd have a role. The skating just isn't good enough and he's not skilled enough to play a top 6 role, nor is he suited to be a bottom 6 checker. This could be a huge return for Erie though, who will be looking to improve even more on this year's strong season and having Torquato return as an overager would be massive.
  • Completely surprised about Bryan Cameron, Jacob Muzzin, and Justin Taylor. Cameron was one of the highest scoring wingers in the OHL over the past few seasons and if you read my blog regularly, it should come to no surprise to hear I'm a big fan of his playing ability. While the question remains as to whether he can remain an opportunistic scorer at the NHL level (because of his size), his skill level matched with his hockey sense and decent skating ability should have gotten him a contract. LA is somewhat notorious for being stingy with their contracts in recent years, with guys like David Meckler having to play in the AHL before earning one. I think Cameron is a solid bet to be re-drafted. If Dany Roussin can be re-drafted, Bryan Cameron can. Muzzin just appeared on my recent Sunday Top 10 about the top defensive defenceman. Hewas an OHL all star this year. And skating issues aside, he's a solid stay at home defender with NHL size, strength and untaped offensive ability. I'm a little more uncertain as to Muzzin's chances of being re-drafted, however I do like his chances of earning a contract somewhere, whether this summer or next year after his overage season. And Justin Taylor has developed into a pretty quality pest with offensive ability. He does a lot of the little things coaches ask and while he may not have the prototypical size of a player who plays the way he does, he's still effective at it. Like Cameron, I like Taylor's chances of being re-drafted late.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday Top 10 - Defensive Defenceman

If you remember, last week we took a look at the top defensive forwards in the OHL (here), in an effort to glorify the hard work of some of the more less heralded players in the Ontario Hockey League.

Well today on the Top 10, as promised, we examine the top defensive defenseman in the OHL. These players are not necessarily all stay at home type defenseman, but they are the best at what they do in the defensive end, and shutting down the opposing teams offense.

Here they are:

10. Jacob Muzzin - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
You don't hear a lot about Muzzin, which is odd considering he was an OHL all star this year and a draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Perhaps it was because he played for such a bad team this year in the Soo, or perhaps it is because he plays such an unglorified style of hockey. Regardless, Muzzin is a solid defenseman. He uses his big body (6'3, 220) to clear the front of the net and despite some skating issues, is generally able to keep pace with opposing forwards. On an interesting note, Muzzin (as a 2007 draft pick) wasn't signed by Pittsburgh by the recent June 1st deadline. This means he will be re-entering the 2009 NHL draft. I hope someone takes a chance on him because he deserves it with the solid improvements he has made.

9. Adam Comrie - Saginaw Spirit
Comrie is only starting to get noticed now, after flying under the radar for the better part of the last two seasons in the OHL. At 6'4, 200lbs, Comrie's greatest asset is his mobility and reach in the defensive end. He stays with opposing forwards very well and is tough to get around because he uses that long stick to be an active pest. While Comrie is still learning to use his size more in terms of asserting himself physically, he's still a quite aggressive defender who will play the body. I think Comrie has a really solid chance to make the U.S. 2010 WJC team, which could be his coming out party as a prospect.

8. P.K. Subban - Belleville Bulls
P.K. gets a lot of flak for being this notorious offensive defenseman who needs to work on his defensive game. There is no doubting that was the case when he was drafted in 2007, but he's come a long way. Subban is now an active defender who makes an effort to return defensively after a rush, and who has been smarter in picking his spots to rush. He uses his smooth skating ability to really help him defensively, as he's developed into a very good one on one defender. While I think there is still needed improvements for him to be called a solid NHL level defender, the progression he has shown leads you to believe that it can happen. Getting the nod from the OHL coaches as the 2nd best defensive defenseman can't hurt his confidence either.

7. John Carlson - London Knights
Carlson is a guy who made quite the big impression in his first and likely only OHL season this year. Coming from the USHL, Carlson immediately became London's top defenseman and was a large reason for the amount of success that team achieved this year. He plays a strong two way game, but I don't think he gets enough credit for being a great defender. Another guy who is an excellent skater, Carlson seems to be everywhere on the defensive side, winning puck battles in the corner, taking his man in front of the net, and being generally conscience of what is happening on the ice. I don't think there is any coincidence that he's been able to take a regular shift in the Calder Cup final right now for Hershey and that he's being highly considered a possible member of the Washington Capitals next year.

6. Harry Young - Windsor Spitfires
Young is just a willing combatant, who uses his intensity level to be an effective defender. Being 6'4 with his wingspan doesn't hurt either. Like Jacob Muzzin, the skating could use improvement, but Young makes up for it by not allowing defenders to use their speed by breaking up plays with his stick, or by simply physically imposing the opposition. It's no surprise that Young compiled 138 penalty minutes this year (including 20 fighting majors), considering his brand of in your face defense.

5. Tyler Cuma - Ottawa 67's
I know, weird seeing his name on this list after he missed the majority of the season with a knee injury he suffered while attempting to make the 2009 Canadian World Junior Team. However, when not injured, Cuma is an excellent defender and likely could have been even higher here, if not for the injury. He has excellent hockey sense and knows where to be on the ice. This makes him an excellent zone defender who does his best to eliminate scoring opportunities for the opposition. There is no question the 67's missed Cuma tremendously this season.

4. Julien Demers - Ottawa 67's
Cuma's loss was Demers' gain. After Cuma was lost for the season, Julien Demers stepped up huge for Ottawa, leading a group of inexperienced defenseman to 3rd in the Eastern Conference. Once, one of the most feared body checkers in the OHL, Demers toned down his game this year in order to be a more effective positional defender. That isn't to say he got soft, because he still plays the body. It's to say he got smart and subsequently became a more effective defender.

3. Dan Kelly - Kitchener Rangers
Kelly is probably the least flashy player on this list. He plays a very quietly effective defensive style of game. He's not incredibly physical, nor is he much of an offensive presence. But that isn't what this list is about. Kelly is a downright effective positional defender who reads and reacts to plays at a very high level. He skates well enough to keep with opposing forwards and he uses his stick to push them to the outside. In a way, he channels the defensive musings of Nik Lidstrom (not comparing Dan Kelly to Lidstrom or anything). He's going to be a big part of Kitchener's expected massive improvement next season, as an overager (unless he earns a contract).

2. Cameron Gaunce - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
Not many players in the OHL, took as big a step forward this season as Cameron Gaunce. A surprise 2nd round pick by Colorado at last year's draft, Gaunce emerged as one of the best defenseman in the OHL this season, being named to the OHL second all star team, as well as finishing 3rd in voting for OHL defenseman of the year. Gaunce was also recently named as a participant at the Canadian WJC Summer camp. Gaunce is just a really smart player, who rarely makes mistakes in his own end. He beats opposing forwards to the puck using strong positioning and anticipation, and he keeps forwards from the front of the net using his size and bullish nature. There is no surprise that Gaunce was named the East's top defensive defenceman by OHL coaches this year.

1. Brett Bellemore - Plymouth Whalers
There is no surprise that Plymouth only caught fire after Bellemore returned from a stint in the AHL with Albany. Bellemore, Hurricanes draft pick, started the year with the Albany River Rats after signing an entry level deal with Carolina. However due to strong depth in Albany, Carolina returned Bellemore to Plymouth just after the half way mark of the season. Bellemore, like many of the other players on this list, uses his size to position himself accordingly in the defensive end. While not a dominating physical presence, Bellemore is not passive either and will do the dirty work infront of the net. Considering his role, Bellemore is actually a very disciplined player. This is evidence of his strong positoning and work ethic at the defensive end, as he's rarely forced to take stupid or lazy penalties. Rightfully so, Bellemore was named the Western Conference's top defensive defenceman by OHL coaches.

Stay tuned for the next two weeks of Sunday Top 10, as we profile some of the players who saw a change of stock this season (both for the good and the bad) for the nearing 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The OHL Prospects Blog Top 20 for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft

With the three contributors all dishing out their rankings for the 2009 NHL Entry draft, it is time for an inclusive Top 20.

Essentially what I've done here is taken the top 20 prospects off Sean, Ryan and my own list and put them into a spreadsheet, creating an average ranking for each prospect. If a player was absent on one of the top 20 list's, he received a 25 for that contributor. If two or more players' average ranking were the same, the player with the highest occurring individual rank from a contributor was placed first. If that was subsequently a tie, I went with the second highest individual ranking. Not a perfect science, but still gives you a fairly accurate averaged ranking.

Brock Sean Ryan
Average Rank
Tavares 1 1 1
Duchene 2 2 2
Ellis 3 3 4
de Haan 4 4 8
Kassian 6 8 3
Kadri 7 6 5
Holland 8 5 6
Werek 5 7 7
Pasquale 9 11 11
O'Reilly 10 9 12
Hutchings 12 10 14
Clark 14 13 10
Doherty 15 12 15
Beck 18 18 9
Latta 17 15 13
Stajcer 11 14 25
Blacker 19 16 16
Szwarz 16 17 18
Cizikas 13 25 19
Foligno 20 19 20
Varone 25 25 17
Clifford 25 20 25

Using this data, we can come up with the OHL Prospects Top 20 for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

1. John Tavares
2. Matt Duchene
3. Ryan Ellis
4. Calvin de Haan
5. Zack Kassian
6. Nazem Kadri
7. Ethan Werek
8. Peter Holland
9. Ryan O'Reilly
10. Edward Pasquale
11. Alex Hutchings
12. Matt Clark
13. Taylor Doherty
14. Taylor Beck
15. Michael Latta
16. Scott Stajcer
17. Jesse Blacker
18. Jordan Szwarz
19. Casey Cizikas
20. Marcus Foligno

Obviously for more in depth reports on these players and more, check out the full ranking write ups of each blog contributor.

You can find mine here, here, and here.

You can find Sean Keogh's here.

You can find Ryan Yessie's here.

Ryan Yessie's Top 30 OHL Players for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and Early Look at 2010

Ryan is checking in with his final draft list for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Here is his top 30 with comments:

1 John Tavares - Center - London Knights
6’0” - 195 lbs. - GP: 56 - PTS: 104
What can be said that already isn’t said, Great goalscorer, pure sniper, great talent, good lateral movement, needs to work on his skating.

2 Matt Duchene - Center - Brampton Battalion
5’11” - 200 lbs - GP: 57 - PTS: 79
Duchene has great talent, dropped alittle in the draft but made his way back with his great speed, and puck skills.

3 Zack Kassian - Right Wing - Peterborough Petes
6’3” - 210 lbs. - GP: 61 - PTS: 63
Kassian uses his size to create scoring chances, has deceptive speed, a great body checker, however he sometimes goes out of position to make those big hits.

4 Ryan Ellis - Defenceman - Windsor Spitfires
5’9” - 173 lbs. - GP: 57 - PTS: 89
Ellis has great speed, and offensive capabilities. His positioning is good, and he has one of the hardest point shots in the league. Ellis will need to gain 15-20 lbs before he goes pro.

5 Nazem Kadri - Center - London Knights
6’0” - 177 lbs. - GP: 56 - PTS: 78
Kadri is a great defensive forward, has very good speed, good hockey sense. He sometimes tries to do too much and doesn’t use his his teammates effectively. Not a natural goal scorer.

6 Peter Holland - Center - Guelph Storm
6’1” - 178 lbs. - GP: 68 - PTS: 67
Uses his frame to protect the puck well, he’s a good skater with a lightning quick release, and great hockey sense. He needs to play more physical. Holland doesn’t dominate games like some others ahead of him.

7 Matthew Hackett - Goaltender - Plymouth Whalers
6’2” - 170 lbs. - W: 34 - GAA: 3.04
Hackett has lightning quick reflexes, and great recovery skills. His positioning could use improvement, and is a late bloomer so not as much is known of him, as much as other prospects.

8 Ethan Werek - Left Wing - Kingston Frontenacs
6’1” - 190 lbs. - GP: 63 - PTS: 64
Werek is a prototypical power forward that just needs to add alittle more muscle to his frame. He has great offensive skills which include a great shot, and good puck movement and plays on the edge. Ethan’s downside is that he doesn’t create plays on his own and generally relies to teammates to set up scoring chances, his shot while streaking into the zone, or rebounds in front of the net

9 Calvin De Haan - Defenceman - Oshawa Generals
6’0” - 170 lbs. - GP: 68 - PTS: 63
De Haan has great offensive instincts, a good shot and moves the puck well. He needs a lot of help with his defensive coverage and needs to add about 20 lbs to become a legitimate pro defenceman.

10 Taylor Beck - Left Wing - Guelph Storm
6’2” - 205 lbs. - GP: 67 - PTS: 63
Beck has great hockey sense and perfect size for a power forward. He handles the puck well and works hard every shift. Beck needs to utilize his size better and play with more of an edge to max out his potential.

11 Matthew Clark - Defenceman - Brampton Battalion
6’3” - 205 lbs. - GP: 63 - PTS: 23
Clark has deceptively good skating, and is solid in his offensive zone. Clark also displays the potential for some untapped offensive skills. Clark doesn’t have the high end potential that the defencemen ahead of him have.

12 Edward Pasquale - Goaltender - Saginaw Spirit
6’2” - 218 lbs. - W: 32 - GAA: 3.02
Pasquale uses his size to it’s full potential and utilizes little movement to stop the puck. Despite the fact Pasquale has a tendency to come up huge in big games he also is earning a reputation for giving up bad rebounds at critical moments.

13 Ryan O’Reilly - Center - Erie Otters
6’0” - 200 lbs. - GP: 68 - PTS: 66
O’Reilly has great hockey sense and offensive instincts. He’s solid off the face-off as well as in his own zone. He has a great deal of strength but unfortunately doesn’t utilize it enough. His skating will be a big issue if it’s not addressed during his junior career.

14 Michael Latta - Center - Guelph Storm
5’11” - 192 lbs. - GP: 65 - PTS: 57
Latta plays well in all 3 zones, plays a good physical game, and moves the puck well. Latta needs to improve on his skating and needs to add to his frame if he wants to play his style of game at the next level

15 Alex Hutchings - Center - Barrie Colts
5’10” - 173 lbs. - GP: 63 - PTS: 68
Has good speed, and is willing to drive to the net with strong puck protection. His hockey sense is good, and he has a decent defensive game. He needs to add some more muscle to his build to have a shot at a pro career.

16 Taylor Doherty - Defenceman - Kingston Frontenacs
6’7” - 218 lbs. - GP: 68 - PTS: 20
Doherty’s opinions are varied but I find that he’s a good skater for his size, his positioning is solid enough defensively to follow smaller attacking players. However he makes a lot of mistakes with the puck, his first few steps are weak and for someone his size he doesn’t play physical enough.

17 Jesse Blacker - Defenceman - Windsor Spitfires
6’1” - 190 lbs. - GP: 67 - PTS: 21
Blacker has shown good puck movement as a first pass, or in the neutral zone. Blacker’s skills are hard to gauge at this point as he didn’t receive much ice time as a rookie on a memorial cup winning team.

18 Phil Varone - Center - London Knights
5’10” - 186 lbs. - GP: 58 - PTS: 52
Varone plays with a lot of energy, and is responsible defensively. He has adequate offensive skills which he showed in the playoffs where he was one of London’s most valuable players. Varone needs to add more muscle and become a bit better at his skating if he wants to continue to be effective playing this style of game.

19 Jordan Szwarz - Right Wing - Saginaw Spirit
5’11” - 189 lbs. - GP: 67 - PTS: 51
Szwarz has good skills with the puck as well as decent speed with an accurate shot. Szwarz may need a little extra work on his own zone to progress to the next level.

20 Casey Cizikas - Center - Mississauga St. Michaels Majors
5’10” - 190 lbs. - GP: 55 - PTS: 36
Cizikas has good speed, and moves the puck well he’s responsible in his own zone, and has a solid shot. His skating could still use some work especially for someone his size to be effective at the pro level, he still needs to be more willing to engage physically, and become more consistent.

21 Marcus Foligno - Left Wing - Sudbury Wolves
6’2” - 200 lbs. - GP: 65 - PTS: 30
Foligno plays a very physical power forward game, he drives to the net and appears to never quit on a play. He could be considered a boom or bust prospect, and needs to become more consistent as he disappeared the second half of this season.

22 Matthew Tipoff - Right Wing - Belleville Bulls
5’11” - 178 lbs. - GP: 68 - PTS: 40
Tipoff plays with great speed and moves the puck well throughout all 3 zones. He’s more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. Tipoff needs to gain atleast 15-20lbs. To be able to handle the physical play in the pros, and seemed to disappear at times when the play did get rough

23 Brett Flemming - Defenceman - Mississauga St. Michaels Majors
6’0” - 172 lbs. - GP: 64 - PTS: 28
Flemming has amazing speed, and moves the puck very well. He needs to add at least 20 lbs of muscle to handle hockey at the next level. If he can do this and still keep his speed he should become a very effective pro hockey player.

24 Scott Stajcer - Goaltender - Owen Sound Attack
6’3” - 180 lbs. - W: 15 - GAA: 3.57
Stajer’s best attribute is that he doesn’t give up many rebounds. He has great recovery abilities and speed. His downfall is he doesn’t have a strong defence in front of him which can affect a goaltender’s development over time, as well as his positioning needs to improve.

25 Tyler Randell - Right Wing - Kitchener Rangers
6’1” - 191 lbs. - GP: 73 - PTS: 37
Randell has great scoring instincts, and is ready and willing to mix things up with the opposition, and plays on the edge. Randell isn’t much of a passer and will sometimes shoot even when the pass is there. He also needs to improve his skating and learn not to take the bad penalties.

And the rest of the top 30...

26 Michael Zador - Goaltender - Oshawa Generals
6’2” - 189 lbs. - W: 11 - GAA: 3.65

27 Ben Chiarot - Defenceman - Guelph Storm
6’2” - 205 lbs. - GP: 67 - PTS: 12

28 Michael Fine - Center - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
6’1” - 197 lbs. - GP: 58 - PTS: 37

29 Beau Schmitz - Defenceman - Plymouth Whalers
5’10” - 185 lbs. - GP: 66 - PTS: 37

30 Peter DiSalvo - Goaltender - Barrie Colts
6’0” - 180 lbs. - W: 15 - GAA: 2.83

2010 Entry Draft TOP 20 OHL Prospects

1 Taylor Hall - Left Wing - Windsor Spitfires
2 Tyler Seguin - Center - Plymouth Whalers
3 Erik Gudbranson - Defence - Kingston Frontenacs
4 John McFarland - Center - Sudbury Wolves
5 Steven Shipley - Center - Owen Sound Attack
6 Tyler Toffoli - Right Wing - Ottawa 67’s
7 Andrew Yogan - Center - Erie Otters
9 Austin Watson - Right Wing - Windsor Spitfires
10 Joey Hishon - Center - Owen Sound Attack
11 Freddie Hamilton - Center - Niagara Ice Dogs
12 Ryan Spooner - Defenceman - Peterborough Petes
13 Steven Silas - Defenceman - Belleville Bulls
14 Joe Rogalski - Defenceman - Sarnia Sting
15 Greg Sutch - Right Wing - Sarnia Sting
16 Jared Knight - Center - London Knights
17 Jeff Skinner - Center - Kitchener Rangers
18 J.P. Anderson - Goaltender - Mississauga St. Michaels Majors
19 Brock Beukeboom - Defenceman - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
20 Devante Smith-Pelly - Winger - Mississauga St. Michaels Majors