Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday Top 10 - Jumping Ship to the OHL - Part THREE

This has become a bit of a tradition here at the blog. Where we examine the possibility of certain players (mostly American) leaving their current teams or commitments to play in the Ontario Hockey League.

I do not include any 1995's on the list, as these guys were just drafted and as such, there has to be some assumption that they'll play in the OHL if they're a higher draft selection (even though a guy like Anthony DeAngelo probably would make a lot of sense for this list).

For reference sake, here is last year's list & here is 2009's list.

The timing of this list is perfect, as this past week it came out that J.T. Miller and Jamie Oleksiak will likely be playing in the OHL next season. They'll appear on this list.

Just a very quick disclaimer. While some research has been done for this article, the players listed here are not DEFINITELY coming to the OHL. And in some cases, some of them haven't even been mentioned in rumours as to be considering the OHL. The purpose of this article is to inform OHL fans of possible players that could be joining their line up in the future. It's all here say, and is in no way (for the most part) substantiated.

Here's the list.

10. Zachary Aston Reese - Kitchener Rangers
Reese is currently slated to head to Brown in 2012, and played last season with Lincoln of the USHL. He was a draft selection of the Soo Greyhounds in 2010, but had his rights traded to Kitchener this offseason. The Rangers are trying to work out a deal to bring the talented offensive forward into the fray, but there is apparently some distance between the two sides on a contract. If he heads to Kitchener, Reese has the potential to find an offensive role with the team and be an important player moving forward.

9. Matthew Peca - Kingston Frontenacs
It's not too often that we say a top prospect's rights have been traded away from Windsor, but that's the case for undersized, offensive forward Matthew Peca. Slated to head to Quinnipiac next year, Peca was drafted by the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning this year and it has appeared to have changed his perspective on things. Not to mention that Peca's rights were traded from Windsor to the Kingston Frontenacs, a significantly closer to home option for the forward. Peca is currently mulling over his options, so we'll see what happens. But if he does join Kingston, Peca could be an impact offensive player in the league. He won a Junior National Championship (RBC Cup) with Pembrooke of the CCHL last year, where he was named the tournament's MVP.

8. Jacob Trouba - Kitchener Rangers
At this point, Trouba is an extreme long shot to play in the OHL next season. He was recently named to the U.S. Under 18 team for next year, a commitment few back out on. The more likely scenario would have Trouba play out his draft year in the USHL and then join Kitchener next year (as he has yet to make an NCAA commitment). Trouba is considered to be a potential top 15 draft selection in 2012 and is a legitimate two way defenseman who could be an impact player in this league.

7. Riley Barber - Windsor Spitfires
Like Trouba, Barber is a long shot to play in the OHL next season because he's slated to play on the U.S. Under 18 team. Also like Trouba, Barber has no NCAA commitments and seems almost destined to play in the OHL in 2012-2013, after his draft season. Barber is a potential first round talent for the 2012 draft and is a scrappy offensive forward who would fit in very well alongside the likes of Kerby Rychel and Brady Vail.

6. Jordan Schmaltz - Windsor Spitfires
If the Spitfires were smart, they'd continue to work on getting this talented offensive defenseman in a Windsor jersey. With the loss of Ryan Ellis, Schmaltz would be a fantastic addition on the blueline. He was one of the best defenseman in the USHL last year, and as an October 1993 birthday, he's eligible for the 2012 draft, where he's expected to be a potential top 15 pick. When Schmaltz de-committed from Wisconsin, everyone figured it was to join Windsor. But recently, Schmaltz committed to North Dakota and now seems like a long shot to ever play in the OHL. Should he change his mind, he could probably jump into the league as a top 10 defenseman.

5. Scott Mayfield - Kitchener Rangers
Long rumoured to be courted by Kitchener, Mayfield has rejected the advances thus far. Playing the past two years in the USHL with Youngstown, Mayfield is set to attend the University of Denver in the fall. A big, hulking, physical defenseman, Mayfield would no question help out Kitchener's defense and give them a tower to pair with Ryan Murphy. Just something to think about. Mayfield was a draft pick of the New York Islanders this year (34th). The Islanders just got burned by a loophole that allowed two of their better NCAA prospects, Jason Gregoire and Blake Kessel, to become free agents. Any chance they're feeling a little bitter towards the NCAA currently and ask Mayfield to play in the OHL?

4. John Gibson - Kitchener Rangers
During the two years he played with the U.S. Development program, Gibson was a winner. He won Under 17 gold, where he was the best goaltender in the tournament. Last year, he won Under 18 gold, where he was again, the top goaltender in the tournament. That winning pedigree has to interest Kitchener, who traded away their starting goalie (Brandon Maxwell) this offseason. While Mike Morrison definitely seems capable of being a solid starter, there is no question that adding Gibson would be preferential. A second rounder of Anaheim this year, Gibson is set to be a Michigan Wolverine come September, which doesn't bode well for him in the OHL, but you truly never know.

3. Tyler Biggs - Oshawa Generals
Just what Oshawa would need, another top flight forward in their line up. Set to be one of the elite's offensive juggernauts next season, Oshawa would love to add the power forward Tyler Biggs to their top 9. The question is, where do the Toronto Maple Leafs want Biggs to play? After spending a first rounder on Biggs this year, the Leafs will likely have a lot of say as to whether they want him in Oshawa or at Miami-Ohio. The real kicker is that Biggs' father (Don) is in the top 10 of career scoring for the Generals and is one of the better players to ever don an Oshawa jersey. It'll be interesting to see where Biggs is next year. I think it could go either way.

2. Jamie Oleksiak - Saginaw Spirit
After a solid freshman season with Northeastern University, the 6'7 physical blueliner seems set to play in the OHL next year, after being drafted 14th overall by Dallas. After his head coach, Greg Cronin, left for a job with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Oleksiak apparently started to really give the OHL route some thought (probably with a nice push from Dallas). While it's not confirmed yet, it does appear Oleksiak will be a Spirit next year. The question is, what type of player will we be getting in the OHL? A bigger, physical defenseman who'll struggle to adapt like Jarred Tinordi did last year. Or a beast who'll jump into the league as one of the league's best rearguards. The Spirit could definitely use the later next year. I know Ryan O'Connor would certainly look great next to Oleksiak and give him a bit more freedom offensively.

1. J.T. Miller - Plymouth Whalers
The first player this offseason to de-commit from an NCAA program (North Dakota) and join the OHL, Miller is poised to make a large offensive impact in Plymouth. The 15th overall pick by the New York Rangers, Miller is a solid two way player who'll fit right into the Whalers line up alongside the likes of Stefan Noesen and Rickard Rakell. For those who watched the Under 18's last year, I felt like Miller was the U.S.' best forward at the tournament and I look forward to the energy he's going to bring next year.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

2011 CHL Import Draft Review

On Wednesday, June 30, the Canadian Hockey League held its annual Import Draft where CHL teams got the opportunity to add import talent to their teams. There is two rounds of the draft, and a team can pass on or trade their pick at any time. Just to remind you, CHL clubs are permitted to carry only two import players on their team or protected list every year.

While the Import Draft can be a bit of a crap shoot, many of the players drafted do come over and can have an impact. Let's breakdown the results of the 2010 Import Draft.

26 of 26 players selected came to the Ontario Hockey League (100%)
21 of 26 players selected lasted the entire OHL season with their clubs (81%)
10 (open for debate) of 26 players had a significant impact on their OHL teams (38%)

Looking at these results, last year's Import Draft was a very significant one for the OHL. 10 real impact players were added to the league, of which the majority are sticking around for the 2011-2012 season. Also, over 80% of the picks managed to be useful enough players that they spent the entire season with their clubs. Contrast that with 2009, which was around 50%, and you've got a very successful draft.

You never really truly know what you're getting in these players, despite what scouting reports or first hand accounts may tell you. Is this year's Import Draft a good one? Let's examine some of the selections with the help of some foreign hockey experts.

1. London Knights - Olli Maatta - Defenseman
Leading up to the draft, there was a lot of hype about the Knights possibly selecting potential first overall pick in 2012 Mikhail Grigorenko. When it came out that Maatta was going to be London's guy, some Knights fans appeared to be a little disappointed. But they shouldn't be. Maatta is a legitimate contender for the top half of the first round in 2012 and is a guy on everyone's radar. HF's Chapin Landvogt even goes as far as to compare him to Janne Niinimaa ("but with more heart"). He looks like the perfect compliment to London's current defense, which is missing a confident offensive creator.
Scouting Report: HF's Chapin Landvogt says, "He's a thoroughbred. Not always the most economical skater, but logged tons of minutes at the U-18 and was safe and sound in all three zones. Hustles and is always awake out there. Seemed to always take the body as his first choice when defending. A coach's dream player. Good at deciding when to skate with the puck, when to pass it and when to just dump it in the zone or shoot it. Usually quite crouched and concentrated when handling the puck in the offensive zone. Reminded me a wee bit of a Janne Niinimaa - but with a heart. Has good jump, although it sometimes looks like there's something in his pants holding him back. Sounds funny, I know, but it jumped out at me. His stance has his legs generally far apart. Has skyrocketed in development. Wasn't even on the charts last year at this time and likely had the most ice time of any defenseman for Finland. Was also the youngest player on the WJC team. Definitely a kid you see improving in leaps and bounds once he gets used to the NA style." Here's an interview Chapin did with Maatta this season. Here's what our anonymous European scout had to say. "Excellent prospect, has made great improvement during the season(I was lucky to see him at fourth tourneys throughout the season). For me top 15 for 2012. Simply said, heart and soul player, just leader on ice, great passion and determination, excellent stamina. Great ability to skate the puck out of zone under pressure, makes quick decision with puck in all zones, has vision. Heavy shot. His skating looked better and better every time I saw him. Loves to lead the rush and doesn´t miss opportunity to join the rush. Still I don´t remember situations when he would be late on backcheck into his D-position, has strong instinct and knows when to go and when to stay back. Strong in battles, tights forward up along the boards, banger, tough and physical.Very decisive handling the puck, excellent in moving the puck out of zone distributing the puck quickly on forwards, very accurately. Passes are crisp and accurate. Heavy low shot from point. Moves well on PP at the point, can do both, move the puck as QB or be used as triggerman. Attacks opposing forwards early, angles them to the board, good gap. Has improved skating throughout the season, especially footwork, very strong on skates, has power in stride."
Stats Link

4. Peterborough Petes - Peter Ceresnak - Defenseman
A draft pick of the New York Rangers this year (6th round), Ceresnak is a big defenseman from Slovakia who should help to shore up Peterborough's defense this season. The 6'3, 210lbs rearguard served as the captain of team Slovakia at the Under 18's this year and even has some experience playing against men in the Slovakian men's league.
Scouting Report: Our anonymous source that scouts in Europe said this, "Not a big fan of him, I don't consider him as NHL prospect, should be good player for Peterborough though. Well built physically, very strong on skates. Feet are a bit slow and heavy, line skating, stride is okay. Has some ability to skate the puck out of zone under pressure and make good firm, first pass. Strong in battles along the boards, fights forwards up there, can play physical games but lacks timing on his hits at times. Not really smart positionally, doesn't read the play well in own zone, could be beaten 1 on 1 down low and gets out of position looking for hit. Not instinctive or creative player offensively, lacks ability to lead PP from point. Shot is heavy but release is a bit slow. Doesn't read the play quickly enough to make right play with puck under pressure at times."
Stats Link

7. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds - Egor Malenkikh - Defenseman
With their first Import pick, the Hounds went for big Russian defenseman Egor Malenkikh, a 6'3 rearguard who plays with Russia's 1994 select team. Interestingly enough, he was the 4th overall pick in the 2011 KHL Draft by SKA St. Petersburg. So there has to be some doubt as to whether he reports, although with the NHL draft success Russian players have had the past few years could sway his stance. He's already on NHL Central Scouting's radar as they have him listed as a player to watch for 2012 (here). It seems like if he does come over, he could make a pretty reasonable impact.
Scouting Report: Alessandro Seren Rosso provides us with a scouting report. "He's a big guy and a good skater who has very good puck skills. He plays first pairing hockey with Team Russia 94. A very good player, but as far as I know he's not too interested in reporting, but we'll see." Our anonymous Euro scout says, "Big, physical, solid skater, has mobility for his size. Average skills and not really smart with puck. Strong on skates, likes to get involved physically. Heavy shot but lacks accuracy. Thought process with puck is questionable, reading is a bit slow, makes turnovers regularly."
Stats Link

10. Brampton Battalion - Patrik Machac - Forward
The Battalion have added a talented offensive center, but one who lacks size. Machac played well for the Czech Republic at the Under 17's this year (leading his team in scoring) and is listed as a player to watch for the 2012 from the Czech Republic by NHL Central Scouting (here). As we all know, Brampton was an offensively challenged team last year, so here's hoping Machac can add some dynamic ability to a line up that needs it.
Scouting Report: Our anonymous European scout had this to say, "undersized center plays much bigger than his size. Plays a very intense and competitive game. Strong skater with speed, acceleration, agility, shifty. Skilled and creative, strong stickhandler and puck control in tight. Has vision and passing touch. Not afraid to play in high traffic and takes hits to make play."
Stats Link

13. Belleville Bulls - Danill Zharkov - Forward
Zharkov split this past season between the MHL (Russian Junior League) and the USHL. His midseason departure to North American suggests that he's likely a sure thing to report. He has good size at 6'3 and based on the scouting report I have received below, he seems like a guy who could find success on the big ice in Belleville.
Scouting Report: Alessandro Seren Rosso says "He's a very fast player with a good offensive skill set. Zharkov is not a superstar but can get his job done." Meanwhile, TSR's Scott Campbell got a few looks of Zharkov this season, but said he didn't really stand out and was receiving limited ice time in Tri-City. Also, TSR's main USHL contributor Rich Michalowski had this to say. "The big Russian joined the Storm mid-way through the season. He has the look of a player who has the talent and potential to be considered a top 120 pick in 2012. Zharkov skates hard and with a purpose and has good speed that will improve as he refines his skating just a bit by lengthening his stride. Offensively, Zharkov has the awareness and ability to get the puck to his teammates as well as an above average shot. However, his one on one skills and creativity are his strengths. Zharkov displayed those skills often when I watched him and while on some occasions his hands weren’t as quick as his legs, he made some sick plays with the puck and beat several players one on one. Plus, Zharkov showed not only a willingness to throw his weight around but also finished his checks and at times was a dominant player in both ends. Zharkov also appeared to score points with his teammates when he went after a player who took a run at one of the Storm and appeared ready to drop the gloves if the other player obliged. Zharkov is a player to watch for sure."
Stats Link

16. Mississauga Majors - Sergey Kuptsov - Forward
There's no question that once he arrived, Maxim Kitsyn had a profound impact on the Majors offense and was one of the team's most consistent scoring threats. With this pick, they seem to have targeted another Russian player who brings some of the same things to the table.
Scouting Report: Kuptsov is a very solid all around player and a potential power forward prospect. "He's a good player," says Alessandro Seren Rosso. "He's big and fast and can play decently also on defense. I think he's a very good pick as he can score and play physical too."
STATS: Salavat Yulaev 94, Russian junior regional leagues, 32 GP, 21+19, 38 PIM (stick tap to Alessandro for digging these up for me)

19. Sudbury Wolves - Johan Mattsson - Goaltender

22. Kitchener Rangers - Radek Faksa - Forward
It would appear that the Rangers did quite well for themselves with this selection. Even if it meant giving up the rights to Gabriel Landeskog (who has to be considered all but a lock to play in Colorado this year), Kitchener fans should be happy. Faksa played a lot in the Czech U20 league this year, as a 16/17 year old and is listed as one of the top players from the Czech Republic for the 2012 draft...and a possible first round selection.
Scouting Report: Our anonymous European scout says "Excellent pick by Kitchener, Faksa is very good NHL prospect, right now I see him as late first or second round prospect. Versatile, two-way forward who can play successfully both, as center or at the wing. Smart and instinctive with puck. Good puck skills and very good hockey sense and vision. Can handle the puck in speed and solid hands. Makes creative sets-up around the net and good finishing touch. Competitive, good heart and character. Needs to add strength and improve balance but still able to overpower and compete against stronger players along the boards. Wins battles down low and not afraid to take huge checks to make a play. Strong in puck pursuit on forecheck and on backcheck. Drives the net and finishes checks hard. Solid speed and acceleration, needs to improve agility."
Stats Link

25. Barrie Colts - Mathias Niederberger - Goaltender
An interesting selection by the Colts, only because their selecting a goaltender to add to their growing collection of netminders. With John Chartrand, Clint Windsor and Josh Malecki already with the team, you have to wonder what the motivation is. Niederberger is someone who already has experience playing against men in the DEL and is likely being brought in to try and create some healthy competition. May the best man win.
Scouting Report: HF's Chapin Landvogt says "Well, Niederberger is a BIG surprise. His father was a big time pro in the German scene well into the 90s. He's been playing with the Düsseldorf organization in recent years. Didn't know he'd even be considered outside of the country."
Stats Link

28. Guelph Storm - Tanner Richard - Forward
Looking to help counter the loss of forwards Peter Holland, Taylor Beck, and Michael Latta to the pro ranks (more than likely), the Storm went with a forward in the Import draft. Richard is the son of a Canadian, playing in Switzerland (father is former OHL star Mike Richard...not Richards). Guelph is going to need all the help they can get offensively this year so I'm sure they're hoping he'll come over rather than make money in the NLA.
Scouting Report: Hockey's Future's Rafik Soliman gives us his report. "Tanner Richard is the son of former North American pro Mike Richard and due to his bloodlines Tanner is blessed with a high hockey-IQ. Although a playmaking type forward, he possesses a nice, accurate and hard shot which he doesn’t hesitate to use. Has an average frame for a forward, but isn’t afraid to use is. Is an ok skater, but his speed and intensity level should suit the North American game well. Can lose his composure and take penalties due to undisciplinary behavior. It’s still not 100% clear if he’s making the trip to the OHL, since his hometown pro-team, the Rapperswil-Jona Lakers, are fighting hard to have him in their team."
Stats Link

31. Erie Otters - Sondre Olden - Forward

34. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds - David Elsner - Forward
With their first pick, the Hounds tried to hit a home run, but with this second pick the Hounds seemed more focused on drafting an older player who can likely step into their line up and play a depth role. Elsner is one of the few NHL Draft picks part of this crop (Nashville 7th in 2010), but isn't likely to have a ton of offensive potential.
Scouting Report: HF's Chapin Landvogt says "Elsner is a bit of a surprise as well, but he is a Nashville draft pick and didn't really take the step in development he was hoped to last year. Should he head over, I can't imagine he'll have a big impact. Average sized boy who plays a chippy game. Just doesn't show much offensive upside." Here's what our anonymous European scout had to say: "I liked his energy, competitiveness, work ethic but . Checking line winger even at level of junior competitions. Finishes checks, competes hard in puck pursuit, skates hard all the time, battles for puck in corners. However he brings little offensively. Skills, hockey sense, vision, instincts, creativity are very modest. Decent hands for puckhandling though."
Stats Link

37. Erie Otters - Vladimir Tkachev - Forward
The Otters are hoping they found something a little better than Timofei Tankeev last year. Tkachev was eligible for this year's NHL Entry Draft, but was not even ranked by Central Scouting. He performed admirably for Russia internationally and could be a bit of a diamond in the rough.
Scouting Report: Alessandro Seren Rosso says "He has potential. He's no Mikhail Grigorenko, but he has good offensive instincts and is disciplined." Our anonymous Euro scout says, "Looks smaller than listed. Good vision and creativity in offensive zone, makes nice sets-up from the board, good passing touch. Some skills, handles puck well in tight. Purely finesse player, lacks any physical aspect in his game but at least not afraid to go into high traffic."
Stats Link

40. Owen Sound Attack - Michael Schumacher - Forward

43. Saginaw Spirit - Vadim Khlopotov - Forward
Khlopotov is an undersized offensive forward who spent some time in the MHL and with the Russian Under 17 team this season. The biggest question will be whether he's able to fight through checks and is strong enough to put up offensive numbers next season.
Scouting Report: Alessandro Seren Rosso says "Khlopotov is a very gifted offensive player who simply has size issues. He can also be aggressive at times. He's a good project pick who'll need to get stronger." Our anonymous Euro scout says this, "Good skills, some scoring instinct and goes straight to the net. Can hit pretty hard, one of few Russians who can play at least a bit physical. Good hands and hockey sense. Solid competitor at both end. Skates well, has speed, acceleration, agility, balance."
Stats Link

46. Oshawa Generals - Sebastian Uvira - Forward
Uvira is a scrappy offensive winger who made a bit of a name for himself with solid play at this year's Under 18's. If he comes over, he could fit in very nicely with the group of forwards Oshawa has accumulated for next season. But he apparently has a contract with Augsburger of the DEL for next season, which clouds the likelihood that he comes over.
Scouting Report: HF's Chapin Landvogt says "Uvira is the interesting one. Very solid kid who is responsible in a two-way capacity. Decent size. Opened eyes at the U-18. Actually had a very solid all-round season for the German junior champions. Could have an impact similar to the one the recently drafted Noebels had in Seattle. It's possible that he'll not be good for more than 35 points though." Here's what our anonymous European scout had to say: "Son of former Czech national team D Eduard Uvira(World champion in 1985) has dual citizenship(Czech and German). There are some intriguing tools. Has smooth stride with good speed and acceleration. Good size and willing to use it, plays with energy, initiates contact and finishes his checks hard. Can beat d with speed and finesse moves, quick hands/stick. Unfortunately, he has got little hockey sense, he isn´t instinctive and creative player, his decision making with the puck is very questionable and he is poor without the puck."
Stats Link

49. Sarnia Sting - Ludvig Rensfeldt - Forward

52. Niagara IceDogs - Jaroslav Pavelka - Goaltender
Was the third ranked goaltender in Europe by NHL Central Scouting for the 2011 NHL Draft, but went undrafted. With a solid year in North America, I'm sure Pavelka is hoping he can turn some heads. With a solid camp, he sets up to be the back up to Mark Visentin in Niagara, a very important job seeing as Visentin will be missing some games (likely) for the WJC's this year.
Scouting Report: Our anonymous European scout says "Nice natural tools and skills, flexible, athletic, good size but technique, anticipation and mental toughness is lacking. Good reflexes, quick glove and moving across the net, skates well. Challenges shooters hard, but tends to overplay the first shot and lacks poise and patience. Many acrobatic saves as results of being often out of position and lack of anticipation, many wasted moves in net. Good balance, competitive, never gives up on shot, vocal, plays with temperament. Likes to go out of net to handle the puck but he is not good puckhandler. Decent absorbing shots by his body but kicks out some big rebounds with his pads. With good goaltending coach, he could surprise some people."
Stats Link

55. Owen Sound Attack - Artur Gavrus - Forward
The little Belarussian Gavrus would appear to be a pint sized offensive dynamo, after the performance he put on at the Division 1 Under 18's this year (as a 17 year old). He lead his team in scoring and was named one of the top player's in the tournament. But at only 5'9 (and an apparent 150lbs), can he play in the OHL?
Scouting Report: Alessandro Seren Rosso says "Gavrus is someone who's been scouted by CHL teams for over a year now. He can do it all offensively, score and set up linemates for good scoring opportunities."
Stats Link

58. Sudbury Wolves - Jiri Sekac - Forward
If the name sounds familiar, it should. Sekac was a 2009 Import selection by Peterborough...and a major disappointment who lasted all of 8 games with the Petes before being cut. But after a very solid offensive season, the 19 year old Sekac is hoping to give the OHL another try. He lead his USHL team (Youngstown) in scoring last year, so there's a chance he's another Kuchin for the Wolves (hopefully without the slow start).
Scouting Report: TSR's Scott Campbell isn't quite sold that Sekac's second tenure in the OHL will be much different. "Sekac is better than he was 2 years ago, but I don’t think he’s going to be much of an impact player in the OHL. He’s got a weird stride and he gets knocked off his game by physical players." TSR's main USHL contributor, Rich Michalowski agrees to some degree, "Sekac improved alot from the previous season and was without a doubt Youngstown's best and most consistent player besides Mayfield. He easily had the best skill set of the Phantoms and would be a contributor at one of the better NCAA programs had he taken that route. He's not overly physical but yet showed a willingness to get feisty at times. I've seen him fight before and while not a great fighter, did not show any fear. That said, I am anxious to see how long it takes him to adapt to the OHL level in what will be a physically grinding schedule."
Stats Link