The offseason doesn't give us a lot to talk about, so this is a feature I love to run on this blog every year; the examination of some rookies who could make an impact in the OHL next season.
Now, by rookies I don't mean fresh faced, newly drafted 1995's. We're talking about some of the 1994's (and possibly even 1993's) who didn't make the OHL full time last year, but who have the potential to make a real big impact in 2011/2012. Every year, players like this emerge to become quality, even star players, in this league (see Mark Scheifele, Phil Lane, Geoffrey Schemitsch, etc). And every year, I put together this list with the help of someone who's able to see the Tier 2 and midget level a hell of a lot more than I do. See, 2010 and 2009's lists, with the help of former Mckeen's head honcho David Burstyn (who's now working for an NHL team).
This year, I enlisted the help of Sean Lafortune, a new contributor for Future Considerations, who is very well versed on the "goings on" of Tier 2 hockey in Ontario. Sean has put together a list of 10 guys (with a few wild cards) that are worth keeping an eye on this season.
Here is his write up in no particular order...
Daniel Altshuller - Goaltender - Belleville Bulls
Nepean Native Daniel Altshuller is a goaltender who has an impressive resume, and in my humble opinion, is the best draft eligible goaltender in Canada. His resume includes the top goaltender award at the World Under 17 Challenge, and more recently being named to Canada's entry into the Ivan Hlinka Tournament in the Czech Republic, where he helped Canada to yet another gold medal. He is everything that scouts look for in a goaltender in 2011. He is well sized, and displays excellent focus and mental strength. He never seems rattled or phased in any situation, and always seems to remain calm. He displays strong athletic abilities, including his lateral movement while in the butterfly, as well as his reflexes. He is very strong positionally, and always is square to the shooter, taking away open space in the net. The question is whether he actually plays in the OHL next season. It recently came out that he's not interested in battling Malcolm Subban for playing time in Belleville and won't be reporting there (thus the Bulls' acquisition of John Chartrand). So if he ends up playing in the OHL next season, it'll have to be for another team (hello Oshawa, you need goaltending!)
Justin Auger - Forward - Guelph Storm
Coming off a strong season in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL) Auger is an intriguing prospect. He combines size and skill and is a prototypical north to south winger, who's game is tailored for the OHL. Despite his size he is actually a fairly effective skater, who has above average footwork and mobility. He is at his best without the puck driving to the net, as well as working the cycle along the boards in the offensive zone. Although he is well sized, he is not overly physical and will have to continue to work on really maximizing his physical play.
Ray Huether - Forward - Barrie Colts
Stratford native Ray Huether is one to watch this season. Originally drafted by the Saginaw Spirit, Barrie acquired his rights this summer with the expectation that he will become an offensive force for the Colts. Huether is an offensive minded forward who has a lot of natural skills. He is a strong skater and is at his best with the puck in the offensive zone. He has a very accurate, effective shot, and has that ability to score timely goals. He is well sized, but does not always use it to his advantage, and could improve his aggression both on the forecheck as well as along the boards. Currently slated to start in the Colts top two lines, with either Mark Scheifele or import Ivan Telegin, once should expect him to be given every opportunity to succeed in Barrie.
Trevor Carrick - Defense - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
Carrick is an intelligent two way defenceman who was one of the top 1994 aged players in the Ontario Junior Hockey League last season. He is a strong, physical defender who is at his best in his own end, playing an aggressive and smart defensive game. This season in Stouffville he displayed improved puck handling and offensive instincts with the puck, and although there is still some room to grow with his puck handling, his progression over the past 12 months has been impressive. Carrick should be a key member of a rebuilding Majors team, and hopefully follow the lead set by brothers Jake and Sam.
Holden Cook - Forward - Owen Sound Attack
After losing Joey Hishon, and the expected losses of Garrett Wilson and Andrew Shaw, scoring will be an issue for the Owen Sound attack this season. One solution to that problem could be winger Holden Cook. Playing last season with the Whitby Fury, Cook is an intelligent winger who is at his best with the puck on his stick. He rarely will panic with the puck, and is willing to let a play develop around him before making a decision. His best asset is his footwork and acceleration. He also respects his defensive responsibilities, and is strong positionally in all three zones. He is willing to mix it up physically, however he could be stronger down low in the offensive zone. He has a good accurate shot, however that is another area that he could improve on. Expect him to start on the third line, and move up as he proves himself at the Ontario Hockey League Level.
Zac Leslie - Defenseman - Guelph Storm
After a successful season in with the Gloucter Rangers of the Central Jr A Hockey League, Zach Leslie is a player who appears ready to move up a level to the Ontario Hockey League. Leslie brings offense from the back end. He is a strong skating defenceman who is strong at moving the puck with poise, and is also proficient at skating the puck out of danger and into an area where he can make a smart play with it. He makes strong stretch passes if available, or can simply make a smart play by finding an open man in the neutral zone. He has some room to grow with both is positional play, as well as his lower body strength, which will help him in battles for loose pucks in the defensive zone. Given Guelph's lack of depth on the blue line this season, one can expect him to come into the league and play a top 4 role with the storm, play second line power play and develop as the year plays out.
Drake Caggiula - Forward - Erie Otters
After spending a year in the Ontario Junior A Hockey League, there is no doubt that Pickering native Drake Caggiula is ready to take on another challenge. Caggiula is an intelligent centre iceman who is very creative offensively. He reads the ice well in both the offensive and neutral zone, and is strong at distributing the puck on the rush. He is not what you would call a natural goal scorer, but his strong positional play does put him in the right place at the right time. He is a very strong skater who maximizes his stride and acceleration. His size and strength will be an area that he must work on moving forward. He is not physically intimidated, however he can struggle against bigger and stronger defenceman. Caggiula does have options, as he was a pick of the Des Moines Buccaneers in the recent USHL Entry Draft, however the expectation is that Caggiula will be an Otter by the start of the season.
Michael Clarke - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
Windsor's second round pick in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection, Clarke is a hard working two way forward who projects out as a solid second line centre at the OHL level. After spending last season with his hometown London Nationals, Clarke should be poised to become a key building block for the Spitfires. He is strong with the puck and distributes it well in the offensive boards, and is more of a playmaker then a pure finisher. His best assets include his intelligence, his competitiveness, as well as his positional play in all three zones. Although he may not wow you with his puck handling, he is the kind of player who every team needs to have in order to win. Should be able to step in and play a third line centre role with the Spitfires, and have the opportunity to move up the ladder as the season moves forward.
Adam Lloyd - Forward - Brampton Battalion
Lloyd is an effective offensive forward who is at his best in the offensive zone. He sees the ice well and makes strong decisions with the puck, both at a stand still and at a higher speed. Undoubtedly his best asset is his offensive skill. He shows good creativity with the puck, and although he may not be a pure goal scorer, he has the overall offensive tools to be a strong offensive player in the Ontario Hockey League. He is a strong skater who has good footwork and accelerates well. He should step into the Battalion's lineup in a top 9 forward role, play some second line power play and add some secondary scoring. At times he can struggle with his consistency, as well as his physical play.
Josh Brown - Defenseman - Oshawa Generals
Brown is a big, strong physical defenceman who had a strong year in Whitby with the Fury. He is strong positionally in his own end, and aggressive down low and along the boards. He is at his best playing in his own end, using his reach to close down passing lanes, as well as battling for position in front of the net. Despite his size he moves well and has good mobility and footwork. He has shown in the past that he can make strong plays with the puck, however he still does have some room to develop that skill. Already signed with Oshawa, his biggest issue this season will be getting playing time on a defence core that is expected to have most of its defence core back, minus Tony DeHart and Calvin De Haan.
Cristoval Nieves - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
Nieves is one of, if not the best 1994 aged forward not yet in the Ontario Hockey League. Neives is a well sized, offensive minded forward who displays a high ceiling, and is currently expected to be a first round draft pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. His OHL rights are held by the Niagara Ice Dogs, however all reports have him playing the season at Kent Prep School (or with the Indiana Ice of the USHL), which is an interesting proposition for a forward of his skill set. He is expected to follow through on his Michigan commitment and step on the ice for the Wolverines next season. Check out this goal he scored from the currently happening Ivan Hlinka Tournament.
Robert Polesello - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Polesello spent last season with the Vaughn Vipers of the OJHL, where he was named rookie if the year. He was projected as a top pick in the 2010 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection, however made an early commitment to Boston College, one that appears to be strong. His current OHL Rights are held by the Kingston Frontenacs, and he has committed on to play with Indiana Ice of the USHL this season.
Riley Barber - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
Barber is a smart two way forward who displays strong intelligence and offensive ability. Although it appeared early in the summer that he was close to committing to Windsor, Barber has committed to the US National Team Development Program for the 2011 season. Barber is not committed to any NCAA College at the moment, and he is expected to be a early to mid 2nd round draft pick in the 2012 NHL draft.
Honorable Mentions (a few to keep an eye on that didn't make Sean's list and report).
Nathan Pancel - Forward - Sudbury Wolves
The CJHL Rookie of the Year last season, playing for Gloucester, Pancel is a gifted offensive winger who already got a taste of the OHL last season during the playoffs. He didn't look out of place then, and with an offseason dedicated to training, he should be ready to grab a top 9 role on the Wolves.
Kurtis MacDermid - Defenseman - Owen Sound Attack
Brother of former Attack tough guy (and current Boston Bruin prospect) Lane MacDermid, Kurtis brings a lot of the same things to the table from the back end. He lead Owen Sound (of the GOJHL) in defenseman scoring this past year too, which suggests that he could bring some offensive elements to the table as well. The Attack have a young team with some openings and perhaps he could grab one.
Jake Worrad - Defenseman - London Knights
A 1993, Worrad essentially lost a year to injury in 2010, after it was expected he would come in and be a big part of the Knights young defense. Still equipped with a lot of offensive potential, Worrad could return this year and make a substantial impact (especially on the Powerplay).
Special thanks to Sean for helping out with this article. You can follow him on twitter HERE. And be sure to check out Future Considerations in the future for Sean's work.