I bring you part 3 of my rankings as we delve inside the top 30.
30. Chris Tierney - F - London Knights
As I mentioned in a previous article, I felt like there were several players who really raised their stock with strong playoff performances, and Tierney was one. He's really come a long way since his rookie season, transforming himself from a fairly one dimensional offensive center to a very strong, hard working two way energy guy. He earned his place in the line-up and that was no easy task with the depth of young players London accumulated this year. It was either evolve or perish. Tierney can now be considered one of those guys who does all the little things well. I really like how he attacks the oppositions defense on the forecheck. He forces a lot of turnovers with his stick in the passing lane and he reads plays really well. He's not necessarily a physical force out there, but he works hard and gets results. His defensive game really improved over the course of the year and found that it really stood out in the playoffs, especially in the Niagara series. Best of all, I think the best it yet to come from him offensively. He can be creative with the puck, and I've seen him make defenders miss off the rush. This year, I think he set out to simplify his game to cut down on some of the offensive turnovers that plagued him as a 16 year old. As he gains confidence (and strength on the puck), I could see him becoming a very strong offensive center too, as he has the vision, creativity and hands for it. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager.
29. Josh Anderson - F - London Knights
Back to back Knights on the list, and another one of the team's young unsung heroes this year. Anderson is a great story; a kid who was never drafted and walked onto the Knights this year. His success comes from how hard he works on the ice. He never gives up on a play and is really fun to watch in the offensive zone. He just never stops moving and is in on everything. He'll go from forcing a turnover on the forecheck, to working the cycle, to cutting to the net hard for a pass or rebound. Anderson just loves to get his nose dirty. Much like teammate Chris Tierney, I wouldn't call Anderson an overtly physical player, but more a high energy guy who'll outwork and hustle you for a loose puck, rather than outmuscle you for it. If anything, I think that points to a high IQ on the ice, as he gets himself in the right position and reads the play well. Anderson has good hands in close to the net too and could be a solid net presence with some more strength. One of the biggest next steps for him will be the continued progression of his overall game. I'd love to see him channel that energy to a strong defensive game too. After playing in his first OHL season, I'm really curious to see where an offseason of conditioning will put him. A lot of scouts seem to think he's got a lot of potential. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager.
28. Joel Wigle - F - Niagara IceDogs
Easily one of the most underrated players in the draft IMO. People look at the stats he put up (12 goals, 8 assists) and don't realize he did all that from the 4th line on a deep team. On a lot of the nights I saw Niagara play, their 4th line was among their best and was a huge factor in wearing down opposing defenses. Wigle is a big guy who definitely has power forward potential. He's very aggressive in the offensive end and uses his size very effectively. He works really hard on the cycle and protects the puck with his big frame. What really impressed me was his playmaking ability. He sees the ice quite well and does well to set up his linemates with scoring chances. A big guy who works hard, can distribute the puck and put it home is very valuable. Moving forward, Wigle will have to continue to work on his skating to make his drives to the net more explosiveness. Just the same, the evolution of his ability to carry the puck will determine just how much offensive potential he has. With increased ice time next year, I could really see him exploding offensively. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager.
27. Artur Gavrus - F - Owen Sound Attack
Based on pure skill
alone, he's one of the most talented forwards on this list (anywhere in
the Top 50). Gavrus has insane puck skill and can make moves at top
speed. He scored one of the prettier goals in the league this year
against Windsor (VIEW HERE),
showcasing just what I was talking about. He keeps plays alive in the
offensive end by putting the puck on a string. Just a very dynamic
player; one who is very fun to watch. He's also fearless on the ice and
despite being undersized, will do just about anything to make a play. In
a way, that's the big concern with Gavrus. His durability has to come
into question after receiving two concussions this year, one pretty bad
one. He has a habit of skating around with his head down and can get too
cute with the puck at times. He's a pretty one dimensional player at
this point too, and we'll need to round out his game to be an effective
NHL'er. Tons of offensive potential if he find a way to survive the
physical rigors of the North American game.
26. Matia Marcantuoni - F - Kitchener Rangers
Ranking Marcantuoni was incredibly difficult for me. The injuries, combined with his disappointing play, gave me fits when trying to slot him into my top 50. It's essentially going strictly off potential. He has loads of skill. He's got great speed, a great shot and can drive to the net very effectively. When he's at his best, he's also aggressive physically and plays an in your face kind of style. But there are several things that scare the crap out of me about drafting him. The first is the injuries. A high ankle sprain cost him a significant chunk of time last year. This year it's been concussions and a wonky shoulder (that required season ending surgery). This leads me to "thing" number two. After being so injury prone, you have to wonder if he can sustain a physical playing style, which unfortunately for him, makes him most effective. When he came back from injury at one point this year, he looked really tentative out there and was forced to play a perimeter game. Lastly, as of right now his game seems to be built off being able to use his speed to make things happen. With so little development time this season, it was hard to see him progress in that area and I think that some of the hockey sense concerns people have brought up may be legitimate. So many question marks. So much potential. All it takes is one team to believe in what he brings to the table. Check out Matia in action courtesy HPTV.
25. Dylan Blujus - D - Brampton Battalion
Blujus had an excellent sophomore season with Brampton, emerging as one of their go to guys on the blueline. He's not a flashy guy, but quietly very effective. He makes an excellent first pass, makes quick decisions with the puck and does a very good job controlling the point on the powerplay. Defensively, he plays a simple game and does well within Brampton's strict defensive system. At 6'3, he's a very intriguing prospect because once he fills out and learns to use his size more, he could become not just a good defensive player, but a very good one. Especially since he seems to think the game really well and has a good head on his shoulders. The big red flag for me is his skating ability. He's definitely an awkward skater who needs to improve both his speed/acceleration forwards, but also his backwards and lateral mobility defensively. I'm always weary of offensive type defenseman who need skating work, because it hinders their offensive potential at the next level. Will his skating improve to the point that he can be an effective puck rusher at the NHL level? Will his mobility improve to the point that he can be an effective defender off the rush in the NHL? When I see Blujus play, I can't help but recall a former highly touted WHL prospect by the name of Eric Doyle (one of the highest ranked prospects to go undrafted from my memory), who had a similar build but similar problems as Blujus. Despite what the statline would tell you, I think he's very much a project, but a project worth gambling on at some point in the draft. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager.
24. Jake Paterson - G - Saginaw Spirit
Paterson quietly flew under the radar all season long, if only because he didn't post outstanding numbers on paper, at least over the course of the entire season that is (.904 save percentage). But if you look closer, you'd see how good Paterson was over the last two months of the season when Saginaw really started to make a run up the West standings. In February and March, he posted a .932 and .940 save percentage (respectively) and ended up earning the starting job for the playoffs...where he again played great. Another reason that he's not getting a lot of hype is the style of play he exhibits. Unlike guys like Subban and Matt Murray, he's more of that traditional puck stopping butterfly goalie who relies on good positioning more so than agility and athleticism. In other words, he's not flashy. He challenges shooters well, squares himself off and makes saves look relatively easy. His rebound control really improved over the course of the season too. Like any young goalie, he'll need to improve his consistency, but I absolutely love how he closed out the season. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager.
23. Nick Ebert - D - Windsor Spitfires
Man, what one year can do to your draft stock. At this time last year we're talking about Ebert as a potential top 10 selection in 2012. Now we're left wondering if he can crack the Top 100. There were a lot of problems with Ebert's game that contributed to his fall down the rankings. The main two were consistency and his decision making. Consistency in the sense that some shifts he looked great, others terrible in the very same game. At times, he looked great rushing the puck, using his strong skating ability and puck skill to gain entry into the offensive zone. Other times he looked hesitant to jump into the rush, or would casually carry the puck up ice leading to little. At times, he used his size defensively to engage physically and push forwards off the puck. Other times he looked lazy, relied on the stick check too much, and would get caught standing still in the zone. On the powerplay, he's got an absolute rocket of a shot. But too often he would fire it into shot blockers and had issues getting it through to the net. A lot of people attribute his lack of success this year to the absence of Ryan Ellis on his flank, but I don't think we can use that as an excuse. He's got a ton of potential, so expecting him to carry Windsor defensively, I don't think was an unrealistic expectation. Especially with a year of the USHL, and a year of the OHL under his belt (including a strong playoff run last year). I've heard a lot of rumblings from scouts about a potential attitude problem too. Even still, with all his faults, Ebert still finished 4th among draft eligible defenseman scoring (behind Ceci, Finn, and Graham) with 39 points and was only a -2 defensively. If anything, it shows you what he's capable of if he started putting it all together on a consistent basis. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager. Also, check out some clips of Nick in action courtesy HPTV.
22. Jesse Graham - D - Niagara IceDogs
If you recall, I took a lot of flak last year when I named Graham the 16 year old who had impressed me the most. Throughout the first half, I was actually starting to feel the heat on that as I was disappointed by his lack of progression. It was only after the team separated him from Dougie Hamilton and put him with the newly acquired Jamie Oleksiak that I felt he took off. While paired with Hamilton, I felt like he was being wasted and not given enough responsibility with the puck. With Oleksiak, it was as if someone had taken off his leash. He was a new man. Let's start with the positives. Graham is one of the best skaters in the entire OHL, and transitions up ice in a flash. He's the perfect ingredient for running an up tempo offensive game as Niagara did, as he can turn the play around in a matter of second. He also doesn't need a lot of room to get out of his own end, and sees the ice very well. For a risk taking offensive defenseman, he doesn't commit a lot of turnovers. But he's not predictable, as he can also fire passes up ice with precision, which keeps the opposition on its toes, and to some degree, the forecheck off his butt. And while he's not big, he's not timid or shy and will engage and try his hardest to come away with loose pucks or tie up forwards in front of the net. The problem is that he's just small, more so in the body weight department. For as much as he tries, he comes out on the losing end a fair amount and will absolutely need to add bulk to play at the next level. In order to take that next step as a powerplay quarterback, his shot will also have to improve. I think he's definitely worth a shot on in the relatively early rounds, as his game is tailored perfectly to the new fast paced offensive NHL. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager.
21. Andreas Athanasiou - F - London Knights
Great things were expected of Athanasiou this year after a solid rookie season, a good performance at the Ivan Hlinka, and the highlight reel show he put on at the NHL Growth and Development camp. But it was definitely not an easy season for the sophomore winger, as he struggled with consistency and eventually became a healthy scratch at different times during the OHL playoffs. Everyone knows what Athanasiou brings to the table at this point. He's a dynamic offensive player down the wing where he uses his terrific speed and dynamite stick handling ability to create offense while driving hard to the net. But he became a bit of a one trick pony, relying on his speed and speed alone to generate offense. He became predictable and it limited his effectiveness. His shot and play without the puck just didn't develop this year the way many anticipated it would. In particular, the Knights coaching staff was particularly critical about his effort level defensively, and his willingness to engage physically. This cost him some playing time in the playoffs when the Knights opted for more toughness in the lineup. I will say this about Athanasiou though, he's starting to buy into the way the Knights want him to play. When he did draw into the line up in the playoffs, in particular in the Memorial Cup, he looked motivated and was definitely more aggressive away from the puck than he had been in the regular season. With his hands and speed, the sky is the limit if he can figure everything else out. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager. Also, check out some clips of Andreas in action courtesy HPTV. Finally, listen to Andreas on the Pipeline Show.
20. Jarrod Maidens - F - Owen Sound Attack
The injury bug strikes again, as Maidens was one of several high end draft players to suffer a season ending injury. As he battled post concussion symptoms, Maidens missed the final two thirds of the season, giving us only a tease of his development as a sophomore. The lack of exposure combined with the very serious concussion might be enough to scare me off, at least in the first two rounds. Obviously Maidens is famous for scoring the Championship winning goal last year. That will resonate with fans for a while. And goal scoring is his bread and butter. He's a big centerman (although I think he might be better suited for the wing at the NHL level) who is a pretty good skater, protects the puck well and is aggressive in driving hard to the net. He'll go hard to the net without the puck too and thrives off being that type of crease crashing player. Maidens also possesses an excellent shot which he release quickly and accurately. His puck protection ability and shot definitely suggest he could have excellent goal scoring potential at the next level. Maidens is a pretty solid overall player, although I find that his play away from the puck is wavering. Sometimes he's aggressive, other times he looks a bit lethargic. Being able to bring it every game and every shift is often something many big centerman have a tough time doing. The million dollar questions with Maidens are obviously, what are the long term projections of his health? And just how much offensive potential does he possess? Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager. Also, check out some clips of Jarrod at HPTV.
19. Brady Vail - F - Windsor Spitfires
Vail is a terrific two way centerman who projects excellently as a shutdown type of forward at the next level. Every night, Vail matched up against the opposition's top line and had the task of shutting them down. He has everything you'd look for in potential defensive stalwart. He's got size and he's aggressive in using it. He bodies forwards off the puck, is physical and in your face, works well in the corners, has a very active stick, and anticipates the play well. He's also a good skater, which allows him to be both an effective backchecker and penalty killer. Best of all, for all his tough defensive assignments, Vail actually managed to put up some impressive offensive numbers. With 22 goals, and 30 assists, he did his fair share of not only shutting down the opposition's best, but scoring on them too. He's at his best as a playmaker who is patient with the puck in the offensive end, and does well to find his teammates in scoring position, especially from behind the net after working the cycle. As a goal scorer, his shot is still developing, but he's not afraid to crash the net for rebounds and pay the price for dirty goals. Vail is probably going to be that guy who goes earlier than expected because NHL teams just love players like him. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager.
Also, check out some clips of Brady at HPTV's website.
18. Dane Fox - F - Erie Otters
If you remember, earlier this year I profiled Fox and was able to do a Q & A with him (FIND IT HERE). I think he's a really interesting prospect based on the bevy of things he brings to the ice. He's an in your face centerman who has the potential to develop into a very tough guy to play against. He's physical, sometimes in an undisciplined way and can take some bad penalties, but I think he's made headway on utilizing his energy in more positive ways (especially in Erie). Fox is an aggressive forechecker who forces turnovers and I think he's got a lot of potential as a penalty killer. Offensively, he's deceptively quick and has really progressed as a puck carrying center. He's very effective in taking the puck hard to the net, and his stick handling ability and offensive creativity is very underrated. He sees the ice well and makes his linemates better. In fact, I felt like the London Knights were actually better off keeping Fox and not acquiring Greg McKegg. His chemistry with the Rupert twins was fantastic and that line could have been outstanding next year. Next year will be huge for Fox as he takes on a leadership role in Erie and will be largely responsible for whether they can make the playoffs next year. I'm not usually one for comparisons, but Fox reminds me of former Knight David Bolland and I think he has the potential to develop into a similar player at the next level. You can listen to Dane chat about the draft on The Pipeline Show.
17. Trevor Carrick - D - Mississauga Majors
At the beginning of the season, I just couldn't wrap my head around the fact that NHL Central Scouting had Carrick ranked so highly. But as the year went on, Carrick grew on me more and more and I began to see what they clearly saw in him so early in the year. I think Carrick has a ton of upside as a mobile, physical defender. He's got excellent mobility and is a very difficult defender to get around; not just because of his mobility but also because he's physical, aggressive and uses his stick extremely well. He's also effective in the corners, where his size and physicality make him difficult to win battles against. The key for Carrick moving forward will be the development of his offensive game. I saw great strides in this over the course of the year, so I think he's got potential to really develop this part of his game. He shows flashes of brilliance in being able to carry the puck up ice and join the rush. He's also got a great shot and was really beginning to get himself in good positions to use it by the end of the year. What he really needs to work on is keeping things simple in his own end, as he can be prone to turnovers caused by the forecheck. Taking his first pass to that next level will make him an even more effective defender. Be sure to check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager.
16. Gemel Smith - F - Owen Sound Attack
Wind him up and let him go. Gemel Smith is like the energizer bunny. He plays with tons of energy and is an aggressive player in all three zones. His best asset is his high end speed and acceleration. He won the fastest skater event at the Top Prospect's Game, and this would have surprised no one who sees him play regularly. He uses his speed to create turnovers on the forecheck, to take the puck hard to the net, and to crash the crease for loose pucks. While Smith is undersized, he's also a very effective player along the boards because of how he keeps his feet moving. He simply outhustles the opposition instead of outmuscling them. He also uses that explosive acceleration to separate himself from the opposition and can be especially effective coming away from the boards. Smith's vision and playmaking ability is also underrated. While he creates a lot of offense from his hustle, he is also intelligent and patient with the puck and is a very good passer. I love how versatile he is as a player. He stepped right into a shutdown defensive type role at the Under 18's and looked solid. The key to his progression will be added strength. As he gets stronger, he'll be even more effective offensively, especially in taking the puck to the net. Added strength will also improve his shot and make him more of a goal scoring threat coming down the wing. Like any guy hovering around that 5'10/5'11 mark, he's going to face questions about his durability moving forward to the NHL level. This is especially true considering the style of play he utilizes. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager. Also, check out Gemel in action courtesy of HPTV.
15. Matt Murray - G - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
I felt bad for Murray this year. He played quite well through the preseason, showing that he had definitely worked on his game this offseason. Then he had the Hounds playing well at the beginning of the season. However, it was all stripped away from him after the disastrous Jack Campbell trade. After the trade, you could tell that his confidence just wasn't there and he looked shaky in a lot of his outings. Essentially, I've got him ranked this high based on two events, the Top Prospect's Game and; the Under 18's. At the Prospect's Game, I felt like he turned in one of the better goaltending performances I've ever seen at the event. And at the Under 18's, he backstopped Canada to its first medal since 2008 and was named one of Canada's top players at the event. The thing that I love about Murray is his size and athleticism combo. He's 6'4, but he's so agile and moves well to take away the bottom of the net. He definitely has the propensity to make the highlight reel save. He goes post to post very quickly and never gives up on a play. His positional work is a bit of a work in progress, as is his rebound control. But he's big, athletic and I love that he has shown up in big games. Massive pro potential. You can listen to Matt chat about the draft at The Pipeline Show. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager.
14. Adam Pelech - D - Erie Otters
As I've mentioned a few times already in this top 50 write up, it can be so difficult for defensive defenseman to shine on horrific teams. That's what Adam Pelech was faced with this season. After suffering a wrist injury early, he had to sit back and watch the team fall into the OHL basement. When he returned to the line up, the damage had already been done. Even if he was playing over 30 minutes a night for the team, it was hard for him to stand out on some nights. It was at the Under 18's where he really got his chance to shine, playing top minutes for his country and being named one of Canada's top 3 players at the tournament. Pelech is an absolute rock defensively and oozes potential as a stay at home beast. He's got great size, but is also a good skater and defends well, both off the rush and in coverage. He's also a physical player who finishes his checks hard against the boards and who is intense in front of the net when clearing the crease. For as long as I could talk about his defensive game, I think his offensive game is criminally underrated. He makes a terrific breakout pass and sees the ice really well. He's also got enough puck skill to skate the puck away from the forecheck. His ability to run the powerplay is a work in progress, but he has a heavy shot and has potential there. I think once he gains confidence and becomes more comfortable, we could see him put up some impressive point totals. One concern that does creep into my mind is the fact that neither of his two brothers have had much success making the NHL. Matt, especially, was an NHL first round pick at the same position. However, Adam is a better skater than Matt ever was, and has better offensive instincts and skill. Be sure to check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager.
13. Scott Kosmaschuk - F - Guelph Storm
Kosmachuk is a solid North/South winger who crashes and bangs and can really put the puck in the net. Nail Yakupov led the way in goal scoring among draft eligible players with 31, but Kosmachuk was right there behind him in 2nd with 30. He has excellent goal scoring instincts and can score in a multitude of ways. He's most effective crashing hard to the net and is an excellent garbage man. He's not tall, but he's stocky and is already quite strong. His shot coming down the wing is a work in progress, but it's already quite good. While he's a good goal scorer, Kosmachuk is also clearly a fun guy to play with. He's a very effective forecheck and is strong along the boards. He also creates room for his linemates with his energy and effort. His passing skills off the rush are strong too IMO, however at full speed his stick handling skills can suffer some. He's certainly not someone you can expect to bring the house down with a brilliant one on one move. He knows what his strengths are and he keeps the game simple offensively. His three zone game is a bit of a work in progress. Sometimes he looks strong as a defensive player, other times he's passive in his own end. I think it's probably a matter of conserving his energy so that he can play aggressively at both ends of the ice. I was really disappointed in the fact that he didn't play a large role at the Under 18's, because when he did play, I felt like he was very visible. At the end of the day, you know what you're getting in Kosmachuk. A hard nosed goal scoring winger who can compliment more finesse type players. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager. Also, check out some clips of Scott in action courtesy HPTV.
12. Tom Wilson - F - Plymouth Whalers
Easily one of the most heavily debated players in this year's draft. The debate is clearly about his offensive potential. Some believe he has some. Others believe he doesn't. I think I lie somewhere in the middle. I'll start by telling you what Wilson is. Wilson is absolutely a throw back to the power forwards of old. He's an absolute monster out there physically. He lowers the boom efficiently and consistently, and picks his spots well without sacrificing positioning or potential scoring chances. His physicality on the forecheck is especially outstanding as defenseman can hear him coming a mile away, resulting in panic and turnovers. His presence on the ice is known at all times. Wilson is a terrific fighter and a feared pugilist. He's also a beast in front of the net; a near immovable object for OHL defenseman once he gets position near the crease. He's also a great skater for a big man and has explosive quickness which he uses to get to loose pucks quickly. Now here's where my questions come in. How much potential as a goal scorer does Wilson have? For me the answer depends on the development of his shot, as I don't see his puck skills developing to the point where he becomes an offensive dynamo on drives to the net. He has good hands and that allows him to get a lot of goals in close, but to be a truly effective goal scorer he's going to have to work on improving his shot in the slot, especially on the one timer. Another question is, how's his hockey sense? For me, the answer is I don't think he's got terrific goal scoring instincts. But does he really need them if he can be an effective crease crasher. With his size, even if he's a tad behind the play offensively, he should be able to outmuscle his opponent to complete scoring chances. At the end of the day, I take him in the first round, but not as high as he's likely to go after a terrific playoff with Plymouth. After putting up a point per game in the postseason and showing teams what he's capable of offensively, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if an NHL team takes him inside the lottery (top 14). Be sure to check out his Draft Tracker segement with Yahoo's Neate Sager. Also, check out some clips of Tom in action courtesy HPTV. Finally, listen to Tom chat about the draft on The Pipeline Show.
11. Slater Koekkoek - D - Peterborough Petes
Another player who suffered a devastating season ending injury, as Koekkoek missed two thirds of the year with a severe shoulder separation. This obviously makes it hard to evaluate his draft season. It was especially hard for me because I loved what I had seen from Koekkoek in his 16 year old season, but the times I saw him early this year, he really left me wanting more. For a lot of teams, I'm sure this could be the case, so drafting him is going off of pure projection of where he COULD be in 5 years time and not necessarily where he is now. I've seen some scouts suggest Koekkoek doesn't possess a lot of potential. I'd HIGHLY disagree with that. For me, Koekkoek is one of those "sum of his parts" kind of guy who has everything going for him, just never at the same time. If he figures it out, he could be a two-way first pairing defenseman. The key to Koekkoek's game is his mobility. He's got great speed and acceleration, which he uses to be an effective puck rusher. He also uses this to avoid the forecheck and is great at making sure the puck gets out of his own end. He also has terrific backwards and lateral agility which he uses to stay with forwards off the rush, angling them off the puck. Koekkoek works the powerplay well and has a heavy shot which gives him strong goal scoring potential from the back end. Defensively, he can be physical at times, but needs to become more consistent in this area. He will also need to work on his coverage in the zone as he can tend to wander around a bit. In the times I saw him this year, he either looked good defensively, or offensively and never both. Finding that comfort zone in the middle will be key. As I said, loads of potential if you're willing to take the risk about him figuring it out. You can listen to Slater chat about the draft on the Pipeline Show. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager.
Stay tuned for the Top 10!