Sunday, September 9, 2012
Sunday Top 10 - Unheralded Rookies Who Could Make an Impact in 2012-13
There's no denying that this is one of my favourite yearly lists to put together. This is the 4th year I've done it and I always love looking back at this one. Of course, I'm referring to 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 1996's. We're talking about some of the 1995's (and possibly even 1994's) who didn't make the OHL full time last year, but who have the potential to make a real big impact in 2012/2013. Every year, players like this emerge to become quality, even star players, in this league (see Mark Scheifele, Matt Clark, Trevor Carrick, 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. Last year, I had TheScout.ca's Sean Lafortune write this piece for us. I've brought him back to do it again. Below you can find Sean's list. I've also added a few other guys I think could make an impact based on what I'm hearing at training camps.
Davis Brown / Left Wing / Sarnia Sting / 5'9" / 185 / Jul. 1, 1995
Davis Brown has always been a goal scorer. I first saw him as an underage forward playing with the London Jr Knights Gold three years ago; usually playing with current Windsor Spitfires centre Michael Clarke. Even though he was a year younger than his peers, he was one of the better offensive player that year, showing strong finishing skills around the net. Three years later, Brown continues to be one of the better Ontario based players that not many fans know about. His release and shot could already be one of the better ones in the Ontario Hockey League. He is a strong skater who shows good footwork and acceleration. Despite having a smaller body size, he works through checks in the offensives zone, finding open ice in the offensive zone. He is excellent at getting lost in defensive coverage and putting himself in a position to finish off plays. If he is teamed with a centre who can get him the puck in the offensive zone, he could be one of the best rookies in the OHL this year. Expect him to play top 9 minutes initially, but could find himself on one of the top two lines if he adapts quickly to the league.
Anthony DiFruscia / Left Wing / Niagara Ice Dogs / 5'10" / 180 / Apr. 20th, 1995
DiFruscia is a skilled forward who I had rated extremely high in his OHL Draft year. He showed strong mobility and footwork, teamed with great work ethic and a very strong, accurate shot. I had him rated as a late first round pick, however he fell a bit due to the fact that he was headed to Salisbury Prep School for a year. Now that he is signed with the Ice Dogs, he could be a real wildcard this year. He is a strong, high compete forward who has some impressive puck skills. His first few steps and footwork are impressive, and he has the potential to be a very effective top six forward for the Ice Dogs, perhaps as early as this season. The Biggest question for DiFruscia moving forward will be how he transitions to the strength and skill levels of the OHL. He has always been a player who uses his size and strength to his advantage, but being 5'10/180 at the OHL level may see that advantage be limited.
Jordan DeKort / Goaltender / Windsor Spitfires / 6'4" / 192 / Aug. 8th, 1995
DeKort was rated as my second best goaltender for the 2011 OHL Draft. The former Markham Major was a second round selection of the Windsor Spitfires, and spent last season in LaSalle of the GOJHL. He is an impressive 6'4/192 lbs, which is a big asset for goaltenders. His best assets are his positional play, his body size, his focus and his ability to take away space from opposition shooters. He is extremely strong positionally. When he is on, he keeps his skates at the top of the crease, challenging shooters and gives them little to no space to shoot at. He shows good mental focus, and never seems to be phased when facing a high amount of shots or traffic in front of him. He will have some room to work on his lateral mobility and agility, but it has yet to really hold him back in either the GTHL or GOJHL. The key this year will be how quickly he adjusts to the level of play in the OHL. He has high potential; however the first year in the OHL is a huge step, especially for a goaltender, and how he manages that step will be a key for him. Realistic expectation have him as a goaltender who plays 30 - 35 games next year. He has the ability to be a starter in this league, but patience will be important.
Jacob Jammes / Right Wing / London Knights / 5'10" / 172 / Nov. 30, 1995
The London Knights used their 2011 2nd round pick last year on skilled forward Jacob Jammes, a player who really looked to be one of the better 95 born players in the OEMHL in his draft year. The graduate of the Ottawa Jr. 67's program spent last season with the Gloucester Rangers, where he developed his already strong puck skills and vision, but also his core and upper body strength. Jammes could have played in the league last year as a 16 year old, however he did have NCAA options and chose to play a year closer to home before determining his next course of action. He was signed by the Knights back in March , and is expected to join their strong core of young, skilled forwards this year. What I like about Jammes is pretty simple. He has excellent hands, sees the ice well and makes strong decisions with the puck. He is a great skater who shows excellent four-way mobility and transitional footwork. He has great vision and has the ability to make a crisp take to tape pass, or simply uses his strong outside speed to drive the net with the puck. He has put on roughly 10 lbs in the past year, but still needs to continue to work on his core strength, as he can struggle down low against bigger, stronger defenceman. A big challenge for him will be his ice time. As mentioned, he will be joining one of, if not the deepest forward core in the OHL, and he will need to show a willingness to play 4th line minutes initially.
Justin Scott / Centre / Barrie Colts / 6'1" / 185 / Aug. 13, 1995
Justin Scott is one of the more improved OHL prospects that I have seen over the past 12 months. When I first saw him play with Burlington of the OMHA, he looked like a player who could be a smart, two way depth player at the OHL level, but one who had some work to do. Last year he made the Burlington Cougars of the OJHL as a 16 year old, and in doing so, he really took a huge step forward in his development. Scott is a two way, high complete forward who who has some real untapped offensive potential. He is not the most skilled player in his age group, but he has some nice puck skills, which we found out last year in Burlington. He is strong down low and along the boards, working pucks into open space and making good tape to tape passes in the offensive zone. He respects his defensive zone responsibilities and doesn't cheat offensively. Expect him to initially play a depth role with the Colts this year, but could work his way up the depth charts quickly given that the Colts are missing some key offensive players from last year.
Ken Appleby / Goaltender/ Oshawa Generals / 6'5" / 190 / Apr. 10, 1995
Of all the players on this list, Ken Appleby is one that I have seen the least. Drafted out of the GNML, I had the opportunity to see him play 5-6 times in his OHL Draft year, and really liked his upside. He is extremely well sized and strong positionally, showing focus and composure in the face of a high amount of shots. He had some room to grow with his lateral movement and footwork in the crease, but you loved the potential that he brought to the table. Last year, he recieved some extremely high praise for his play with Kirkland Lake last season in the NOJHL. He will play a backup role behind Carolina Hurricanes selection Daniel Altshuller, but I could see him really turning some heads in this league, and giving the Generals some depth in between the pipes.
Remi Elie / Left Wing / London Knights / 6'0' / 180 / Apr. 16th, 1995
Elie is another forward who has come a long way in a very short time period. The former Eastern Ontario Wild winger was a fairly good minor midget player, however one that didn't look to be a high-end OHL prospect. That appears to have changed this past year in Hawksbury, as he has really grown in the past 12 months, and the argument could be made that he is the most improved player in the 95 age group in the past 12 months. In training camp and exhibition games this year with London, he looks much more poised with the puck, with improved individual puck skills and vision. He looks confident in himself, and you can see the difference that it makes as he skates the puck into the offensive zone. He doesn't throw the puck away when he is challenged, and has developed an elusive aspect to his game, one that was not there last year. He has also really improved his footwork and acceleration. He still has some room to grow with it, but he's improved significantly from where he was 12 months ago. He, like Jacob Jammes, will have to prove himself in London against a very deep group of forwards. He could mesh well with Ryan and Matt Rupert if the Knights choose to move Ryan back to his natural centre position.
Aaron Berisha / Right Wing / Belleville Bulls / 5'10" / 183/ Mar. 5, 1995
Berisha is a bit of a wildcard this season. The graduate of the Toronto Marlboros was the most valuable player of the 2011 OHL Cup, and showed some strong growth over the course of his OHL Draft year. That's some high praise when you look at the other players who have won that trophy. He is not as individually skilled as some of the other names on this list (including names like John McFarland, Connor McDavid and Sean Monahan), however the growth that he showed that year, partnered with his ability to elevate his game when it matters, intrigues. He is a good but not great skater who needs to continue to work on his first few steps, but I like the offensive tools that he has. He reads the ice well and is strong at making the right decision with the puck in the offensive zone. Working on his aggression, as well as his positional play in his own zone will be keys for him, but playing in Belleville under George Burnett's system will certainly help that.
Patrick Murphy / Defence / Erie Otters / 5'11 / 180 / Jan. 10, 1995
Murphy is a defenceman who played a handful of games with the Otters last year, but is expected to take a much larger role with the team in 2012. He is a smart, puck moving defenceman who shows good vision in all three zones. He makes strong outlet passes, makes effective reads of the ice, and shows some good poise on the point when running a powerplay. The biggest thing to look for in a player like Murphy is how he adapts to the pace of play in the OHL. He played fairly well last year in Port Colborne, however it's a pretty big step from the GOJHL to the OHL. How does he handle the pace of play? How poised will he be against an aggressive forecheck? How will he handle puck battles? How those questions are answered will go a long way in determining his level play this year.
Alex Robinson / Defence / Peterborough Petes / 6'2 / 185 / Feb. 13th, 1995
Robinson is a defenceman who I've always thought had what it takes to be a solid defenceman at the OHL level. Selected by the Peterborough Petes in the 9th Round of the 2011 OHL Draft, I had him rated significantly higher than that, and was surprised to see him fall into the second half of the draft. After graduating the Ottawa Valley Titans program, he spent last season with Kanata Stallions of the CCHL. He makes strong outlet passes, and is smart when moving the puck out of his zone. He can make a crisp pass, or simply dump the puck off the glass if that's what's needed. He is not afraid to skate the puck up the ice with his head up, reading the play and making crisp tape to tape passes. He will have some room to grow with his aggressiveness, as well as his upper body and core strength. He could struggle against bigger and stronger forwards in puck battles and against the forecheck. Regardless, I like the upside that he brings to the game, and think he could make a nice impact in Peterborough this season.
Michael Downing / Defence / Dubuque Fighting Saints / 6'2" / 180 / May 19th, 1995
Michael Downing is another strong defense first defenceman with high upside. He was the Sting's 8th round choice in the 2011 OHL Draft. He is expected to play this year in Dubuque of the USHL.
Tyler Hill / Left Wing / Hotchkiss Prep. / 6'6" / 225 / Apr. 19th, 1995
Former Brantford 99er has a high ceiling. Will be playing this season with Hotchkiss, but his rights are owned by the Ottawa 67's. Could be a real gem for the 67's if he changes his mind at some point.
Charlie Pelnik / Defence / Fargo Force / 6'4" / 221 / May 15th, 1995.
Aggressive, physical defenceman from Carolina's whose rights are held by the Plymouth Whalers, however he is expected to play this season with the Fargo Force of the USHL.
Ian McCoshen / Defence / Waterloo Blackhawks / 6'3" / 205 / Aug. 8th, 1995
McCoshen is one of the best US born prospects for the 2013 NHL Draft. He is a physical, aggressive defenceman who has developed quite well over the past two years in Waterloo. He is expected to captain the Blackhawks this year, and I would be utterly shocked to see him anywhere other than Waterloo this year. His OHL rights are held with the Saginaw Spirit.
Otten's Honorable Mention Selections
Josh Burnside - Winger - Mississauga Steelheads
I mentioned Burnside in my preseason top 30 article. He played a handful of games in the league last year but wasn't able to register a point. So far this preseason, he's used his great speed to score goals and looks to be a candidate for a top 9 spot in Missy.
Andrew Goldberg - Winger - Mississauga Steelheads
A '94 who was an 11th rounder in 2010, Goldberg had yet to break into Mississauga's line-up full time. With a bit of a rebuild at the forward position, he's got a chance to secure his spot after a strong year in Aurora. He's displayed his solid offensive skill set thus far in the preseason (ala Burnside) and seems to be someone to keep an eye on (he's a late birthday and thus first time eligible for the entry draft this year).
Justin Bailey - Center - Kitchener Rangers
Another guy mentioned in the preseason top 30 article, Bailey comes to Kitchener with a lot of hype. He's a big power forward with offensive potential, and someone who should jump into Kitchener's top 6 by the end of the year.
Brody Milne - Winger - Guelph Storm
Has come into Guelph's camp looking for a spot on a deep and talented young roster. With a solid preseason thus far, it looks like he should be able to at least make the bottom six for now. Could be someone to keep an eye on. Good touch around the net and seems to play the game the way Scott Walker likes it.
Slater Doggett - Winger - Kingston Frontenacs
A free agent signing by the Fronts after a strong year with the Burlington Cougars. He's a 94, still plenty of time to develop, especially since last year was his first above midget. Could be a late bloomer as a slick offensive winger. Kingston does have some holes up front, so if he can bring energy and skill, he'll get ice time.
Kyle Platzer - Winger - London Knights
It's kind of at the point where you have to ask yourself where the Knights keep finding these guys. They've already got one of the deepest forward groups in the league and now they have three forwards on this list. Where will they all play? Platzer had a great year with Waterloo last year and seems to be ready to make the team. Maybe London should package a couple of these young forwards for some more size up front?
Broderick Kelly - Defense - Niagara IceDogs
Got some time with the Dogs last year and didn't look entirely out of place. He's a bit undersized, but seems to be a smart puck mover who could give Jesse Graham a bit of help providing offense from the blueline.
Daniel Walsh - Winger - Ottawa 67's
Had a great year for Cumberland, where he led the team in goal scoring and penalty minutes. Ottawa is going to need secondary scoring badly this year. As a '94, Walsh might be a bit more physically mature than some of his competition and could surprise to earn some serious ice time. A possible Dalton Smith replacement?
Greg Betzold - Winger - Peterborough Petes
A Shattuck St. Mary's guy, Betzold seems to be a very talented offensive player who is already making his mark this preseason. He could be someone to keep an eye on and could even start the year in the top 6 and on a powerplay unit.
Michael Giugovaz - Goaltender - Peterborough Petes
Peterborough's goaltender of the future, or so it would appear. It looks like he'll start the year as Andrew D'Agostini's back-up, but after a solid year with Georgetown, he might be able to steal some starts away by the end of the year. We'll see how slowly the Petes ease him into action.
Justin Nichols - Goaltender - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Wrestling time away from Matt Murray is going to be tough, but if his consistency issues don't improve this year, there might be an opportunity for Nichols to be more than a back-up. He was the starter for Salisbury Prep last year, who have two other players on this list (Barisha and DiFruscia).
Ray Huether - Center - Sudbury Wolves
Poor Ray makes this list for the second year in a row! When will he finally crack an OHL roster? After a trade to Sudbury, it looks like he's finally found a home. Seems like he's played well in training camp too and could crack the team's top 9. The offensive dynamo had a great year for Stratford last season and seems eager to move on from Barrie.
Special thanks to Sean, yet again, for putting together this year's list. It's always a great read and highly informative. Be sure to follow Sean on twitter.