Sunday, February 19, 2012
Sunday Top 10 - Overagers Worth Signing (2012 Edition)
What's become an annual tradition of this blog (seems like I have a lot of those), today is the day that I profile the top overage free agents that the OHL has to offer.
A remarkable six players off last year's list ended up getting NHL contracts (list found here), with many of them finding great success in their first professional season, like Jason Akeson who leads the Adirondack Phantoms (AHL) in scoring. Several others received AHL/ECHL contracts. 2011 was a great year for the league's overage players.
This year, I'm not incredibly certain will be as successful. With the NHL's increased focus on drafting 2nd/3rd year eligible players out of the OHL (and CHL), it's starting to seem like many of the league's late bloomers have already found their NHL way (such as Andrew Shaw, who would have been an overager this year). Quite frankly, I'd be surprised if even two of these players received NHL contracts. However, several of these players certainly have the capability to play professionally next year, wherever that may be.
Here's the speech I give every year about this list.
Firstly, likely half of the players on this list will not end up getting a professional contract and will play in the CIS. It's the nature of the beast. While it seems like an abnormally large amount of overage players received NHL contracts last season, the bottom line is that many will not and many will take advantage of their education package while continuing to play a high level of hockey at a Canadian University.
Secondly, this list does not include overagers who have yet to sign NHL contracts, despite having their draft rights owned by a team (like Julian Melchiori & Andrew Yogan). This list is for those players who are (or were) NHL free agents after going through the draft two or three times (depending on birth date).
Alright, enough talking. Let's unveil the list.
10. Josh McFadden - Sudbury Wolves
Perhaps his inclusion on the list will surprise some people. He hasn't really had the type of season that's typical for Josh. But it's been a rough year after failing to make the Hamilton Bulldogs and some injury issues. He's been playing very well the past two months (15 points in 15 games), and there's no co-incidence that in that time the Wolves have made a run up the Eastern Conference standings. Listen, McFadden is what he is. His defensive game isn't great and everyone knows that. But he has an uncanny ability to produce offense from the back end (because, as some would argue he's more like a 4th forward out there). He can skate the puck out of trouble in his own end, has a great shot from the point and runs a powerplay very well. He's not small (at 6'1, 200lbs), and is by no means afraid of the rough stuff. I'd be very surprised if an AHL team doesn't take a shot at him for next year, as we've seen comparable players have success at the next level.
9. Michael Catenacci - Kitchener Rangers
Captain Ranger, Catenacci does everything on the ice for his team. He plays in all situations (near the league lead in shorthanded points) and leads by example (performing well in the playoffs the past two seasons). The only obvious drawback is his size, at pushing 5'7. He's a little dude. But players of his ilk have found success professionally in recent years. His energy, tenacity, and playmaking ability could make him a fan favourite wherever he ends up playing next year.
8. Adrian Robertson - Sarnia Sting
Robertson took a lot of flak this year from Windsor fans before being moved to Sarnia. He was definitely the whipping boy for the team's inconsistent/tougher season. But he was being asked to do too much. Robertson has a big shot from the point and is capable of making a good first pass, but a primary offensive weapon from the back end just isn't his forte. Pro teams will love his size, physicality, and at least average mobility though. He was excellent for Windsor during last year's playoffs, so look for him to really help Sarnia during the 2012 postseason.
7. Andrey Kuchin - Sudbury Wolves
Once a hyped draft prospect during his original draft year (2009), Kuchin has done well in his two year OHL career. The offensively talented forward helped Sudbury to a first round upset during last year's playoffs, and is pacing the Wolves run up the standings this season. He's a little on the small side, and he can have a tendency to get hit hard (has to keep his head up), but he's stocky and has done well to put up a pretty consistent effort this season. He definitely has great hands and a head for the game in the offensive end, which should at least get him a look in the KHL in the future...if he chooses to leave North America.
6. Ramis Sadikov - Erie Otters
You have to feel for Sadikov this year. He worked so hard for Erie last year and played sensationally (even earning an extended look at the NHL/AHL level this offseason). He even went through some issues about where he was going to play at the start of the season. And now he has to endure the Otters' losing ways. He's not as bad as his stats indicate this season. Obviously NHL scouts will be intrigued by his huge frame in net, and his ability to take away the bottom part of the net. He's shown an ability to steal games for his team in the past and definitely has potential. If Jason Missiaen can get an NHL contract, why not Sadikov (who I would consider a superior goaltender)?
5. Adam Payerl - Belleville Bulls
From the way things were going for him during his stint at Columbus' training camp this offseason, I figured he'd be getting a contract before the season started. While his offensive numbers don't jump out at you, it's all the other things about him that will likely interest NHL or AHL teams. He can play any forward position and is a big body who can take the puck to the net. He'll stick up for his teammates, forecheck hard and plays both ends of the ice pretty well. His skating has improved over his OHL career too. He could certainly make a good role player at the next level.
4. Marc Zanetti - Ottawa 67's
The captain of the 67's, Zanetti has been an absolute rock for Ottawa the past three seasons. He's developed tremendously as an OHL player during his four year career; from defensive pugilist, to solid two-way defenseman. While his bread and butter at the next level will certainly be his defensive and physical abilities, Zanetti is capable of skating the puck out of trouble in his own end and can effectively run a powerplay. In a lot of ways, he's very similar to Marc Cantin, who earned his NHL contract with Boston last year.
3. Andrew Agozzino - Niagara IceDogs
Back in 2009, I was originally surprised when Agozzino wasn't selected by an NHL team, after a solid sophomore season and playoff performance. Agozzino has done nothing but produce since. He's lead the Dogs in goal scoring the past three seasons (including this year) and has served as captain of the team the past two years. He's not a big guy (5'9), but he's fearless and is a real spark plug. He doesn't need a lot of room to operate offensively and is a very effective player off the rush. He's also an incredibly solid penalty killer, who leads the league with 7 shorthanded goals. I'm incredibly curious to see where he ends up playing next year.
2. Beau Schmitz - Plymouth Whalers
His game has really hit another level this season. While his defensive game has remained fairly solid over the last few seasons, it's his offensive game that's seen the spike this year. He's 3rd in defenseman scoring, and 2nd in goals. He's also 4th in the league at +32. Playing in his overage season seems to have given Schmitz a new found confidence in his offensive game, to the point where he's at times dominant at both ends of the rink. His physical game has also seen a spike, and he's become stronger in the corners and in front of the net. I'm still not sure what type of role he'd play at the next level, but I think his play this year has shown he warrants a look.
1. Mike Halmo - Owen Sound Attack
In his time in the OHL, Halmo has always been one of the most feared hitters in the league. He's also been the type of player who constantly walks the line between clean and dirty, has seen his share of suspensions, and driven opposing fans to the point of anger. But if he's on your team, you love him. His offensive game really took a big step forward last year playing with Andrew Shaw and the two of them were dynamite in the Attack playoff run to the OHL championship. This year, he's improved even more and currently sits 3rd in the league with 36 goals scored. While I don't anticipate him to be a league scoring champion at the next level, he looks like a solid energy player for an NHL team in the future. He certainly has to be encouraged by the success Andrew Shaw has had professionally this season. The first player on this list has received an NHL contract in every year I've done it (2009, 2010, 2011), so let's hope Halmo can continue the tradition.
Barrie's Colin Behenna, and Sarnia's Brett Thompson, are two of the league's most consistent scorers (Behenna more as a playmaker, Thompson as goal scorer). They're both on the small side, but can put up points with the best of them. They didn't make the list because I'm not sure they do enough away from the puck to be included with the likes of Agozzino or Catenacci (two other smaller guys).
Former NHL draft pick Andy Bathgate is finally playing injury free and he's had a solid season in Plymouth, playing a supporting offensive role in a juggernaut line-up. His overall game hasn't really developed to the point that makes him a significant NHL prospect, but I wouldn't be surprised if he was given a shot somewhere next year.
Owen Sound's Jay Gilbert has developed into one of the league's best stay at home defenseman and was a huge reason for the Attack's OHL Championship win last year. On top of providing solid defense, he can also make a good first pass and can adequately QB the powerplay if needed.