Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Top 10 - Unheralded Rookies Who Could Make an Impact in 2010-11

If you've got a good memory, you'll remember that around this time last year, I posted a top 10 based on lower profile guys who could make an impact in their first year (of at least full year) in the OHL. These weren't your traditional rookies, but 1992 and 1991 born players who didn't play or played very sparingly in the OHL during 2008-09. Names like Phil Lane, Dalton McGrath appeared on the list...while I missed on players like Andrew Crescenzi and Geoffrey Schemitsch.

This year, I've decided to return with a similar list. We're looking at 1992 and 1993 born players who played little or not at all in 2009-10...BUT could make an impact on the league this year. Due to the fact that the league restricts the amount of 16 year olds you can carry and play, you're always going to find players who just didn't make the cut in their draft year, but who can come back strong and leave a lasting impression in their second attempt. A lot of the time these are players who were lower draft picks who grew or added weight, or players who just weren't sure whether they wanted to play in the OHL or go to the NCAA.

The one disclaimer I have for this list is that (for the vast majority), I've never seen these guys play. The list was based on research that I have been doing, which included some help from McKeen's David Burstyn, and the monitoring of team rookie camps.

The list will also not have an actual ranking, but instead will be a list of 10 names who could make an well as some honorable mentions (for reasons I'll list).

Here are the ten players you should look out for:

Justin Thomas - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
A 4th rounder by the Hounds in 2009, the enigmatic Thomas spent minimal games with Sault Ste. Marie last season (although did manage to score his first OHL goal in that time). However, when he wasn't with the Hounds, he had a fantastic season for the Soo Thunderbirds of the NOJHL, averaging over a point per game. The Hounds don't have too many openings up front this year, which means Thomas is going to have to outplay some returning players if he wants a consistent spot in the line up. If he can bring his combination of skill and toughness to the rink on a consistent basis, he could be a surprise contributor for the Hounds this year.

Joey DeConcilys - Niagara IceDogs
This St. Catharines native nearly made the Dogs out of camp last year after a very impressive showing at both the rookie camp and the main camp. He's an undersized defenseman, but is blessed offensively. Considering how much the Dogs powerplay struggled last year, you have to wonder if the team regrets not keeping him. He went on to have a sensational year for the St. Catharines Falcons, posting 33 points in 46 games and being one of the team's leaders on defense. However, the Dogs have a serious log jam on the blueline. Is there enough room for DeConcilys? Is DeConcilys still considering the Dogs? With the turnover in management the Dogs had this summer, they canceled their rookie camp, which means that it's a little unknown as to whether DeConcilys is still going to try and play for the Dogs, or whether he's planning on going to the NCAA. With a new coach and management in town, no roster spot is likely safe. The best players will make the team and it's still possible DeConcilys could be one of those players.

Zach Lorentz & Eric Ming - Kitchener Rangers
You just knew I'd circumvent the ten player limit on this list somehow. I'm doing it by combining a few players who are going for the same OHL club. Lorentz is a local boy from Waterloo who was a late round pick of the Rangers in 2009. He had an excellent season last year, splitting it between midget and Waterloo of the GOJHL (where he nearly averaged a ppg). He just finished having a very strong rookie camp for the Rangers too. He's a high energy player with offensive skill and those types of players often have success in this league. Ming was a mid round pick in 2009, but recently signed with the Rangers suggesting his place on the team is fairly cemented. He also had a very strong 2009-10 season playing for Cornwall of the CJHL where he averaged over a point per game. He's a little undersized and soft, but he has offensive skill and could surprise this season. While it remains to be seen if there is enough room for both Lorentz and Ming on the Rangers this year, you'd have to think the odds are good that at least one of them makes some sort of impact.

Steven Trojanovic - Windsor Spitfires
Trojanovic was a high draft selection of the Spits in 2009 (3rd rounder) and spent 10 games with the team last year, where he didn't look out of place. With some certain (Harry Young) and possible (Mark Cundari, Cam Fowler, Ryan Ellis, Marc Cantin) departures on the blueline, it seems obvious to suggest Trojanovic will receive a much larger role on the team this season. When he wasn't with Windsor last year, Trojanovic split his time with LaSalle (GOJHL) and Oakville (OJAHL), where he had 23 points combined in 44 games. He has good size, mobility, and brings a solid two way game. He looked like a man among boys at Windsor's rookie camp this offseason which suggests he could be ready for bigger and better things.

Adam Nanji - Plymouth Whalers
Nanji is another player who got a cup of coffee in the OHL last season and didn't look completely out of place (even scoring a goal). When he wasn't with the Whalers, he was playing for Streetsville of the CCHL and had a pretty good season. Nanji is a scrappy offensive player who works hard at both ends of the ice. The Whalers could be facing a huge face lift at the forward position this season and there could be openings on the first two lines. Nanji is one of those players who could have the chance to step in and be a big contributor offensively.

Brennan Serville - Sudbury Wolves
Serville is a tall and lanky defenseman who was an 8th round pick of the Wolves in 2009. He currently has a college commitment to Canisius for 2011, but was recently spotted at Sudbury's rookie camp where he was very impressive. Whether he's just taking in the camp for some experience, or whether he's serious about making the OHL remains to be seen. What is known is the Wolves need for quality defensemen, which means that if Serville can come into Sudbury and win a job, he could make an impact. He has good size and had a solid year for Stouffville of the CCHL last season.

Zach Hall & Dylan Smoskowitz - Barrie Colts
Again, here I am combining two players going for the same team. Hall was a 3rd round pick of the Colts who saw very limited time with the team last season due to the logjam at the forward position. But he has all the makings of an impact player this year. He absolutely shredded Junior A last season, putting up 71 points in 44 games for Couchiching (OJAHL) and could be a fixture on one of the first two lines for Barrie this season. Smoskowitz is a later round pick (10th in 2009) who put up excellent offensive numbers for Mississauga of the OJAHL last year (62 points in 56 games). The Colts have some serious holes to plug at the forward position this year which means both Hall and Smoskowitz could end up being big time contributors in 2010-2011.

Bradley McClure - Owen Sound Attack
A 14th round pick in 2009, McClure was definitely sure to be a long shot to make the OHL. But the somewhat undersized forward had an excellent 2009-10 season for Stratford (GOJHL) where he had 28 goals in 51 games. With another disappointing season behind them, the Attack I'm sure would love to make some changes to their roster in hopes of being more competitive. If McClure can come to camp and show the Attack that he can generate offense, he's got a good chance to supplant some of last year's players on the team.

Jordan Auld - Brampton Battalion
The Battalion have the colossal mission of replacing their top three defenseman from last year (Matt Clark, Ken Peroff, Brad Albert), which means that the battle for playing time on Brampton's blueline will be wide open. One player who'll look to crack the roster is defenseman Jordan Auld. An 11th round pick, Auld was one of the top defenseman for the silver medal winning Mississauga Reps at this year's Telus Cup. He has good size and plays both ways, which automatically should make him a favourite of Stan Butler's.

Danny Elser - London Knights
The Knights recently signed this former 6th rounder out of the famed Shattuck St. Mary's program. Outside of London, this signing has generated little buzz, but Elser has the potential to be a big time point producer for the Knights next year. Last year at Shattuck's, Elser played with the prep program (highest level) and finished 4th in team scoring despite playing with any players one or two years older than him. He also finished ahead of 2010 NHL 3rd rounders Jason Clark and Joe Basaraba...despite being a year younger. To top it off, Elser was apparently very impressive at the Knights rookie camp this offseason. Don't be surprised to see this guy near the top of scoring for the Knights by the end of 2010-2011.

Honorable Mentions:

Jordan Schmaltz - Windsor Spitfires
Even if this talented American defenseman recently de-committed from the University of Wisconsin, it's still not certain he'll report to Windsor. He's not eligible for the NHL Draft until 2012 (due to a late birthday), so he has some time to decide. Perhaps he plays another year in the USHL and then makes the jump to Windsor for his draft year? But if he does show up, Schmaltz could make a big impact.

Derek Mathers - Peterborough Petes
A big stay at home defenseman who played well for Strathroy (GOJHL) last season, but the Petes already have a crowded blueline for next year. Where would he fit in?

Jason Kelly - Peterborough Petes
A 1992 birthdate, Kelly failed to make the Petes last year and yet again put up quality stats in the CCHL. This undersized wrecking ball may be facing his last shot at making the OHL full time. But for a 1992 player, he was apparently only average at the Petes rookie camp. Is Kelly a great tier 2 player, but just not good enough for the OHL? I guess we'll see this season.

Alex D'Oliviera - Sarnia Sting
D'Oliviera was an overage selection in the 2010 Draft (11th round). The 6'1, 200lbs defenseman had an injury and surgery plagued midget season last year that saw him get passed over in the 2009 draft. But he made up for it this season by being arguably the best defenseman for the aforementioned Telus Cup runner up Mississauga Reps. He has the potential to be an excellent offensive defenseman in this league and could potentially play his way on to the Sarnia roster this season.

Michael Nishi - Windsor Spitfires
Nishi dazzled at Spits camp last year and really cemented himself in the future plans of Windsor with his dedication to the team. It would appear Nishi has the inside track at the back up job behind Jack Campbell...if the team decides to pitch Troy Passingham (which is likely).

Dylan MacDonald - Plymouth Whalers
MacDonald had an excellent year for St. Thomas of the GOJHL and looks to be ready for a spot on an OHL blueline. He was also very impressive at Plymouth's rookie camp. Problem is Plymouth already has a logjam on defense. If the Whalers can find room for him, MacDonald could surprise.

Mark Scheifele - Saginaw Spirit
Scheifele is a dynamite offensive player with great size who was excellent for Kitchener of the GOJHL last season. Problem is, all signs are pointing to him going the NCAA route after failing to report to Saginaw's rookie camp.

Malcolm Subban - Belleville Bulls
Brother of P.K., Malcolm got a cup of coffee in the OHL last season but spent the majority with the Mississauga Reps in midget. He was outstanding during the Telus Cup, but struggled in his few games at Junior A. He could be the back up to Tyson Teichmann this season.

Chris Festarini - Erie Otters
Festarini is a goaltending prospect that carries a fair amount of hype. He was the back up to Tyson Teichmann at the Under 17's for Team Ontario...but struggled on the whole during most of last season. This included a disastrous cup of coffee with Erie. Hopefully he's put in work this offseason and has the potential to earn a platoon job with Ramis Sadikov.

Robert Visca - Sudbury Wolves
Visca is a 1991 forward who's in a very interesting position. He's on a scholarship to Umass Lowell, but didn't see any game action last year. However...he wasn't redshirted either which means he lost a year of eligibility rotting on the sidelines. Perhaps that could explain why his rights were traded to Sudbury this offseason. While there are no confirmed reports as to whether Visca is indeed planning on leaving UMass for Sudbury, you'd have to think the potential is there for this to happen. Visca was at one point a great scorer in Tier 2 and could make a strong offensive impact for the Wolves if he ends up reporting.

Well that's the list folks. Anybody you think I've overlooked?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

OHL Could Dominate 2011 NHL Draft

As we slowly creep towards the 2010-2011 OHL season, it's time to look at the type of impact the Ontario Hockey League could make on the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in Minnesota.

2010 was a great draft for the Ontario Hockey League, with nine selections in the first round (nearly one third of the round). That performance was second to only 2008 among first round selections (eleven).

However, for as good as the 2010 and 2008 drafts were for the league, 2011 could be that much better. Check out my latest article for School Your Pool.

OHL Could Dominate 2011

Feel free to leave your comments. Certainly seems like it could be a banner year for the league.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

CHL Imports Growing Stale?

In response to all the negative press the CHL has taken in the past couple of days, I've put my thoughts down on the whole IIHF vs. CHL war of words as an article for School Your Pool.

CHL Imports Growing Stale?

Be sure to tell me what you think? Where do you stand? Should Europeans come to the CHL?