The second part of the unveiling of my Top 50 eligible OHL prospects for the 2011 NHL entry draft.
Here are prospects 30 through 11:
30. Craig Duininck - Defenseman - Windsor Spitfires
Duininck doubled his point total from last year on route to a solid developmental season. This included some playing time alongside Ryan Ellis in critical situations for the Spits. He's built well to be a solid stay at home guy in the NHL, already at 6'0, 200lbs. While he can be a physical player, he'll have to continue to refine this part of his game. Learning how to pick his spots for big hits, and becoming more consistent in punishing forwards in front of the net. But he skates well for a stay at home guy, and can really handle forwards off the rush with solid backwards and lateral mobility. He's also pretty smart with the puck in his own end and transitions well up the ice. He'll break up an offensive chance and get the puck to a forward quickly to turn the play up ice. He also saw some powerplay time (in a secondary role) and is improving offensively. He has a pretty hard shot and is learning how to get it on net more effectively. While he may not profile as a high end offensive defenseman at the NHL level, he'll likely be a pretty productive offensive player by the time his OHL career is over (think Jacob Muzzin, Marc Cantin, etc). There are a lot of quality stay at home types like Duininck available this year, but I think he's done enough to put himself at or near the top of this group.
29. Matt Mahalak - Goaltender - Plymouth Whalers
IMO, Mahalak is the top goaltender available from the OHL this year. If you saw him in the first four months of the season, you probably left with a sour taste in your mouth. Through December, Mahalak was 1-6 with a 4.86 GAA and a .848 SV%. And since the New Year (January), Mahalak has been 7-6 with a 3.05 GAA and a .924 SV%. Talk about a boost in production. Mahalak is a big athletic goaltender at 6'3, again something NHL scouts love. He makes himself big in the net and when he goes down in that butterfly, he's tough to beat. He's still a bit unrefined in using that size and can give up some big rebounds. And he'll also need to work on getting down his angles and anticipating plays better. But the athleticism and size are there to work with, and judging by the midseason improvements, there is a lot of potential there. If you want more info on Mahalak, check out Neate Sager's Draft Tracker 5 Questions segment.
28. Joshua Leivo - Forward - Sudbury Wolves
Call me a believer. I was absolutely blown away by Leivo's play towards the end of the regular season and into the OHL playoffs. If you include the playoffs, in Leivo's final 40 games of the season, he had 15 goals, 20 assists and was a +20. This type of production from a 6'2 winger who plays both ends of the ice? You might ask, what was he doing in those first 35 or so games? The answer; becoming a complete player. He worked hard in a checking line role, developed his two way game and eventually got the chance on a scoring line. Leivo is a good skater with an extra burst that he uses to beat defenders to loose pucks in the offensive zone and on the forecheck. He'll drive hard to the net with the puck on his stick and creates scoring opportunities for his teammates from good board work. And as mentioned, he's a very good two way player who's the first one back in the defensive zone and seems to have a knack for intercepting passes and anticipating the opposition's next move. I've heard a few people call him a power forward prospect. I'm not sure I'd go that far, as I don't see him developing in that capacity. But he's certainly someone with a huge learning curve and a lot of potential as a two way scoring threat. How Central Scouting left him off their list, I'll never understand.
27. Scott Harrington - Defenseman - London Knights
Perhaps the player who fell the loudest from the OHL this season. Projected to be a first round pick at this time last year, Harrington is now finding himself in that mid round range after a rather disastrous season. I think it's the classic case of a prospect trying hard to be something he's not...or at least not ready to be yet. Now granted, I put a lot of blame on the Knights in this instance because it was they who failed to go out and get a quality puck moving defenseman and thrust Harrington into that role to start the year. When he's focusing on his defense, Harrington is a valuable defenseman. He's got the size, mobility and intensity to be a quality stay at home guy at the NHL level. But he's limited offensively (at the current moment). Through the first half of the season, he struggled trying to be the primary puck rusher and just didn't look comfortable in the role. Just the same, because he was trying to do too much offensively, it took away from his defensive game. It's not often that a defenseman is better defensively in his 16 year old season, but that was the case with Harrington. Next year will be huge for him. He needs to spend the first half of next year getting his confidence back and really focusing on becoming a premier, physical shut down defender. Check out Harrington's Draft Tracker 5 questions with Neate Sager. Also, check out his appearance on The Pipeline Show.
26. Alan Quine - Forward - Peterborough Petes
No one has ever doubted Quine's offensive abilities. It's his play away from the puck and in traffic that often leaves scouts wanting more (and he's the first to admit that in Neate Sager's Draft Tracker 5 Questions). That being said, I thought he had an excellent Under 18's, where he showed an increased dedication to play without the puck. He was great along the boards, battled for loose pucks and was attacking the net with and without the puck. If he can carry over that style of play to the OHL next season, he'll be a much improved player. As it is, Quine's best asset offensively is his shot, which he can get off quickly and in traffic. He's a very elusive player, but could definitely benefit from a summer in the weight room to make himself stronger on the puck. To be successful, I think Quine's going to have to develop a waterbug style of play. If he can find that edge, in combination with his skill, he could make the NHL team that takes a chance on him quite happy.
25. Tobias Rieder - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
The tale of Tobias Rieder can be divided into two parts. The first part was the Rieder from the first part of the season who was a highly skilled energy player. He was dangerous on the forecheck, got his nose dirty to score goals, and showed a lot of skill in the offensive end. The Rieder from the second part of the season (including the playoffs) was largely invisible, easily muscled off the puck and largely ineffective. Playing in his first OHL season, it seemed Rieder really tired. He definitely has skill and could be a big time point producer in this league. It's his size (5'10) that will likely scare off some teams, in combination with how ineffective he was later in the year when teams became more physical with him. Hopefully a summer of offseason training will allow Rieder to have the conditioning necessary to play the style of game which makes him effective. Kitchener will definitely be counting on him offensively next season. Here's his Draft Tracker 5 questions segment with Neate Sager. Also, check out his appearance on The Pipeline Show.
24. Andrew Fritsch - Forward - Owen Sound Attack
You'd think an offensive winger with over a point per game, playing for the Western Conference champions, would generate a bit more draft buzz. Perhaps it's because he's not really a flashy player, but Andrew Fritsch is effective. Playing with Joey Hishon for a large portion of the year, Fritsch was not just a piggy back. He's a hard working offensive player and a very good goal scorer. He makes smart plays in the offensive end and he gets himself in great scoring position. One of those guys the puck just gravitates too as he gets open in the slot. Fritsch is actually a very good skater too and has some serious wheels. The next step for him will be to improve his strength and ability to protect/handle the puck to capitalize on that offensively and begin to generate more offense himself. He also needs to improve his play away from the puck (defensively, along the wall). Unfortunately for him, he's been injured most of the playoffs and hasn't had an opportunity to show his stuff on a larger stage. But he remains a quality pick anytime after the 2nd round IMO, as a potential secondary scorer at the next level. Here's his Draft Tracker 5 questions segment with Neate Sager.
23. Seth Griffith - Forward - London Knights
I'm kind of torn on him personally. I like him, but I don't love him. Why I like him: He's a very intelligent offensive player who can line up at any forward position and look good/make things happen. He's definitely more of a playmaker than goalscorer, and he's got great vision. His skating is good too, which is the first thing you look at in a smaller forward. I wouldn't say he's a burner or anything, but he's strong on his feet and can play both off the rush and once the offense sets up in the zone. He's also a very dedicated two way player and plays the PK for London. Just a solid all around forward. What's preventing me from "loving" him? I think it's that far too often we've seen players like Griffith in the OHL who have struggled to find a niche at the NHL level. He's one of those "good at everything, but not great at anything" kind of guys for me. While he's definitely a solid two way player, I'm not sure I see him as a 3rd or 4th line center at the NHL level because of his lack of size and because he isn't a physical player. Which means (IMO) he has to profile as a top 6 forward. And while he's a very intelligent offensive player and he definitely has skill, I'm not sure it's enough to slot him in for a future 50-60 point NHL player. He could fall into that "tweener" category that kills so many NHL prospects. That being said, would I draft him? Absolutely.
22. Nick Cousins - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
I have to admit. Before the Under 18's, Cousins was much lower on my list (in the 30's). His performance there opened up a lot of eyes, not just mine. I was previously a little unsure as to what type of player Cousins would be at the NHL level. But the tournament helped to give me that vision, I think. He doesn't have elite size (5'11), but he's a scrappy little player with a big motor. He's a tireless worker in the offensive end and does well to get himself open in front of the net. He'll also pay the price to score a goal and doesn't get pushed around in the slot despite his lack of height. In the OHL this year, his defensive game left a lot to be desired at times (a tendency to float a bit), but at the Under 18's, I felt like he did a great job backchecking. Again, carrying that over to next year would be great for his development. The key to Cousins' development will be the maturation of his play without the puck. As an energy player with hands, he'll have a lot of value. But in order to do that, he'll need to make a concentrated effort to improve his board play and forechecking consistency. Here's his 5 questions segment with Neate Sager. Also, check out his appearance on The Pipeline Show.
21. Joseph Cramarossa - Forward - Mississauga Majors
Definitely a favourite of mine for this year's draft. He managed to put up 32 points this year, despite playing largely on the 4th line with the likes of Jamie Wise, Mika Partanen, Corey Bureau, Gregg Sutch, etc (no offense guys). Cramarossa is your prototypical grinder, but he's damn good at it. He's a quick skater and he uses his speed to play both ends of the ice very well. His speed really helps him negate odd man rushes defensively. I don't know how many times this season, I saw him skate back to lift the stick of a player on a 2 on 1 or 3 on 2. He's physical and punishes defenders on the forecheck. He'll drop the gloves to protect a teammate, or increase his team's energy level. Best of all, he's actually a pretty good offensive player. He can skate with the puck and has very good vision. He's also got a good wrist shot and creates space for himself in the offensive zone. There's a reason Central Scouting has had a guy with his offensive stats, around the top 60 all year. Check out his Draft Tracker 5 questions with Neate Sager to find out more about him.
20. Shane Prince - Forward - Ottawa 67's
While I'm not the most staunch Prince supporter, I do see the value of him as a 2nd or 3rd round draft pick. Prince is definitely skilled with the puck and has the vision to be a valuable playmaker on an offensive line. He's certainly not the best skater (not the worst either), but he also gets a lot of flak for being the third wheel on a line with Tyler Toffoli and Ryan Martindale. On a lot of nights, Prince was the motor that made that line tick though. I think the main concern I have with Prince, is the transfer of his skill set to the NHL. It's just not that common you see a winger who's primarily a playmaker at the next level. And just the same, while Prince isn't tiny (5'11), he's not strong enough or quick enough to create the space for himself required to make those feeds (IMO). He'll have to be paired with a big center who creates space for his linemates, like Ryan Martindale did for Prince this season. He's a smart player and he competes hard, but I'm just not convinced he can be an effective scoring option in the NHL. But just like Seth Griffith, yes I'd absolutely draft him. There are always exceptions to every rule and Prince has certainly performed well enough this year for someone to roll the dice on him. For more, have a listen to his appearance on The Pipeline Show.
19. Vincent Trocheck - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
Trocheck's ranking might be a bit misleading. I definitely like him as an NHL prospect. But his faults...and ultimately high end potential, keep him from being a bit higher. Trocheck is a very smart, hardworking center who was probably Saginaw's most consistent player this season. He's not big (5'11, 180lbs), but he's tenacious, fearless and even has a bit of grit to his game. Despite that lack of size, he's actually effective in the corners and is able to create plays for his linemates through persistence and good vision. He kills penalties very effectively and he's strong on the draw. Basically, a very solid all around player. His biggest flaw is his lack of extra gear to give him separation off the rush (which he admits to Neate Sager in this 5 questions segment). That lack of dynamic speed, combined with his average height could cause him to drop on draft day. Especially when considering that he doesn't have a truly remarkable characteristic and probably profiles as a 2nd/3rd line tweener. Wherever he ends up getting drafted, that team should feel happy with the selection. Be sure to check out his appearance on The Pipeline Show.
18. Lucas Lessio - Forward - Oshawa Generals
Right now, he's probably the most "raw" forward available from the OHL this year. What I mean by that is, you're looking at a player with all the tools, but who just hasn't put things together yet. The consistency in his game definitely picked up in the second half of the season, but he remains an enigma to a degree. Just what does the future hold for Lessio? He can be quite the dynamic player. He can skate with the best of them and has an absolutely explosive first few steps. He uses that speed quite effectively in taking the puck to the net. He'll be aggressive on the forecheck and at times, looks very good protecting the puck along the wall. He's prone to overhandling the puck a bit and could definitely stand to use his linemates better. He shows flashes of being a more complete player, both defensively and physically. But I'd love to see that tenacious spark more consistently. I think it all comes down to whether you believe the hands will catch up with the skating, and whether he has the hockey IQ to be a consistent scoring threat. Worst case scenario, I think you draft him anticipating you're getting a guy who'll develop into a solid 3rd line energy guy. Best case scenario, he figures everything out and you get a budding offensive contributor on a scoring line. For more on Lessio, check out his 5 questions feature with Neate Sager.
17. Rickard Rakell - Forward - Plymouth Whalers
He seems to be stereotyped as one of those future grinders by a lot of scouting companies. But I think he's got offensive potential at the next level. He definitely has hands (check out this goal) and he is very skilled with the puck. That puck skill was on full display at this year's World Junior Championships, where he performed very well. For whatever reason, some of those slick moves and the offensive skill hasn't translated to eye popping offensive numbers. Some people suggest it could be a lack of hockey sense, which at this point might be a valid argument. The reason he's getting that grinder tag is because he actually is a hard working player at both ends of the ice and he does take the body and forecheck hard. It remains to be seen as to whether he'll play center or wing down the line. He looked pretty good down the middle in the new year for Plymouth on a line with Stefan Noesen. I think another thing that hurt him was that he only scored 2 goals in his final 15 games...and then missed pretty much the rest of the season (save a game in the playoffs where he came back too early) with an ankle injury. It's the, what have you done for me lately tag. He definitely looks like a pretty safe pick in that early 2nd round range though, but he's got more potential than some are giving him credit for.
16. Daniel Catenacci - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Anytime you watch Catenacci play, you see how much passion he has for the game. He's definitely a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. Depending on when you catch him, he can wow you with his speed, tenacity and skill. Or you can come away a little disappointed as he becomes a little self centered and struggles to generate offense. I think he definitely hurt himself with his performance at the Under 18's. It was a tough tournament for him as he started out in an important scoring role, but some undisciplined penalties dropped him to the 13th forward spot. That was a big tournament to show people what he could do outside of the Soo. But while that tournament was a bust for him, scouts shouldn't forget how well he played at the Top Prospect's Game. Bottom line is this...if Catenacci's offensive skill level never really translates to a scoring line forward in the NHL...is that really that poor of a selection in the round 2? Would you not take a Darren Helm (who has been fantastic for Detroit this year) in that area? I can totally see where scouts get the lack of hockey sense and selfish play from. When things aren't going well for him offensively, he can tend to overhandle the puck, or force things. But I think he makes a great selection somewhere in round 2, as a player who may mature offensively and become a complete player...or at the worst is a tenacious forechecking third line center. For more on the Cat, check out his Draft Tracker segment with Neate Sager.
15. Stuart Percy - Defenseman - Mississauga Majors
Just call him steady Eddy. Percy is one of the most consistent and reliable players available in this draft. Defensively, he is a rock. He's hard to beat off the rush (and he'll sit you on your ass if you try to get by him), and he's equally difficult to lose in zone coverage. While playing on such a strong team, his +/- (+50) is no fluke. The best thing about Percy is not that he's so strong defensively, it's that he also makes good decisions with the puck and gets it out of his zone very quickly. That transition from good play on defense to puck up the ice to start the offense is the key to Dave Cameron's success in Mississauga and Percy does it as quickly and efficiently as anyone. Offensively, I think he has more potential than many give him credit for. He can lead the rush and skate the puck out of his zone and his powerplay quarterback skills improved this season. Cameron's system doesn't exactly inspire it's defenseman to be flashy, or to take chances offensively, so that's a big part as to why his numbers are lower. Check out his appearance on The Pipeline Show.
14. Ryan Sproul - Defenseman - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
One of the biggest risers of this OHL season, Sproul had a fantastic second half that really made him a curious target for NHL scouts. Let's be honest, 6'4 offensive defenseman with great wheels do not grow on trees. As a defenseman, he's raw. He has a ways to go defensively in this league (as he admitted in his interview with me), but the improvements he made in just one OHL season point to Sproul being a very teachable player. His biggest asset would definitely be his booming shot from the point. He scored 14 goals this year, and that was pretty much in half a season. As mentioned, he's also a terrific skater who can take the puck end to end, but he's still learning when to pick his spots and can get sucked in by a two man forecheck (leading to turnovers). While he'll probably never be a physical defender who takes advantage of his natural gifts, his height and long stick could make him a very effective defender if he's taught to play the angles well. This is especially true given that strong skating ability. Keeping forwards in front of him so that he can utilize that long reach will be a key to his defensive game moving forward. That and settling down in defensive zone coverage. I know I've got Sproul higher on my list than others (have for the majority of the season), but I believe strongly that he has a ton of potential is the type of gamble that could make a scouting director look like a genius in a few years.
13. Brett Ritchie - Forward - Sarnia Sting
The tale of two seasons for Brett Ritchie. Through the opening months, he did not look great. But just around the holidays, things really started to heat up for him. I saw him play during that extreme hot streak and he was a beast. He was physical, playing both ends of the ice, driving hard to the net and putting home the puck. But then came the bout with mono that really crushed the momentum he had created for himself. The Under 18's were a great tournament for him though. He started a bit slow, but by the end of the tourney, he was one of Canada's top forwards. He looked great along the wall and was really working hard to create havoc in front of the net. He has the hands to be a terrific power forward scoring threat in the NHL. The question for scouts is, have I seen enough of him (playing well) to spend a high selection on him? I think the answer will be yes for at least one team. Bottom line is this...if Ritchie doesn't get mono and continues that hot streak through to the end of the year, we're talking about Ritchie as a sure fire first rounder. Sometimes you've got to roll the dice. For more, check out his appearance on The Pipeline Show.
12. Vladislav Namestnikov - Forward - London Knights
Namestnikov is a very crafty player. His playmaking ability is definitely his biggest asset. He has the stickhandling ability to slow the game down in the offensive end, is patient enough to allow the right play to develop, and has the vision to find open teammates. He is also very deceptively quick. He'll skate casually down the wing with the puck, and then all of sudden turns on the afterburners and will beat defenders to the outside. In terms of his overall ability, it's not bad. He has some feistiness to him and is generally unwilling to become physically intimidated. He's also a fairly solid two way player and will make an effort to backcheck. That being said, I found that he could become invisible during stretches. He's not an incredibly "flashy" player and a guy you're going to notice on every shift. To be honest, being a late birth date, I thought he would have had a more consistent season in London. Moving forward, I'm just not sure he'll develop into an elite offensive talent. Being slightly undersized, and lacking a pure dynamic ability in his game, I don't see him becoming a number one offensive center you can lean on. But he has enough talent and smarts to be that number 2 guy every team needs. A guy you can pair with a bigger forward and a talented goal scorer and have a productive unit.
11. Stefan Noesen - Forward - Plymouth Whalers
Sometimes guy's get that "underrated" tag so much, that calling them that becomes a little redundant. I will admit that Noesen's lack of prime time exposure for this draft is a little bit confusing. He's really progressed this season, from energy 4th liner last year to prime time offensive force this season. He's another guy who's been unfairly tagged as a future 3rd liner at the NHL level. He is a very talented offensive player and definitely has scoring line potential. For one, he has tremendous hands. He scores more tip in goals than anybody I can think of. That shows a willingness to stand in front of the net, taking abuse and I think it's a precursor to the type of goal scorer he'll be in the NHL. But he's also a smart goal scorer and understands how to read and react to situations on the ice (especially without the puck). His skating is also a strong suit, as he can explode down the wing and has really developed into a solid puck carrier. That part of his game is underrated (here I go using that word). He has one on one moves and can dangle, but he also has power and does well to protect the puck from defenseman. I think the other parts of his game are inconsistent right now. He can be a solid defensive player, but can also get caught cheating up ice. He can play a physical game and can be a disruption on the forecheck, but at times he looks more interested in trying to be a goal scorer. He can overhandle the puck and turn it over in the offensive zone. When Noesen can combine his offensive skill with the puck and the ability to be a consistent tenacious force, creating scoring chances off of turnovers, he'll be an even better player. Check out Neate Sager's Draft Tracker 5 questions with Noesen. Also check out his appearance on The Pipeline Show.
Stay tuned for the Top 10!