Thursday, June 28, 2012

Import Draft Review Coming!

With the Import Draft complete, I've been working hard to get information from various avenues (scouts, scouting agencies, teams, etc) about the players who'll likely be headed to the OHL for the coming season.

This Import Draft Review has been something I've done the past few years (2011's Review).

So be patient, it's coming!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

2012 NHL Draft Results

The results are in! The 2012 NHL Entry Draft is complete. A successful draft for the Ontario Hockey League as 49 players were drafted (5 more than last year). That's about 23% of all players drafted.

Below you can find the results for OHL players, as well as my draft ranking before the draft (for comparison's sake).

My Rank Player Name PO OHL Team NHL Team RD Pick

1 Nail Yakupov F Sarnia EDM 1 1

2 Alex Galchenyuk F Sarnia MTL 1 3

3 Olli Maatta D London PIT 1 22

4 Cody Ceci D Ottawa OTT 1 15

5 Radek Faksa F Kitchener DAL 1 13

6 Brendan Gaunce F Belleville VAN 1 26

7 Matt Finn D Guelph TOR 2 35

8 Malcolm Subban G Belleville BOS 1 24

9 Scott Laughton F Oshawa PHI 1 20

10 Daniil Zharkov F Belleville EDM 3 91

11 Slater Koekkoek D Peterborough TBL 1 10

12 Tom Wilson F Plymouth WSH 1 16

13 Scott Kosmachuk F Guelph WPG 3 70

14 Adam Pelech D Erie NYI 3 65

15 Matt Murray G SSM PIT 3 83

16 Gemel Smith F Owen Sound DAL 4 104

17 Trevor Carrick D Mississauga CAR 4 115

18 Dane Fox F Erie

19 Brady Vail F Windsor MTL 4 94

20 Jarrod Maidens F Owen Sound OTT 3 82

21 Andreas Athanasiou F London DET 4 110

22 Jesse Graham D Niagara NYI 6 155

23 Nick Ebert D Windsor LAK 7 211

24 Jake Paterson G Saginaw DET 3 80

25 Dylan Blujus D Brampton TBL 2 40

26 Matia Marcantuoni F Kitchener PIT 4 92

27 Artur Gavrus F Owen Sound NJ 6 180

28 Joel Wigle F Niagara

29 Josh Anderson F London CBJ 4 95

30 Chris Tierney F London SJS 2 55

31 Michael Clarke F Windsor COL 5 132

32 Jake Dotchin D Owen Sound TBL 6 161

33 Max Iafrate D Kitchener

34 Alex Gudbranson D Kingston

35 Ryan Rupert F London TOR 6 157

36 Daniel Altshuller G Oshawa CAR 3 69

37 Marcus McIvor D Brampton

38 Ben Johnson F Windsor NJ 3 90

39 Justin Kea F Saginaw BUF 3 73

40 Nathan Pancel F Sudbury

41 Gianluca Curcuruto D SSM CBJ 7 182

42 Warren Steele D Kingston

43 Zach Leslie D Guelph

44 Kristoff Kontos F Mississauga

45 Connor Brown F Erie TOR 6 156

46 Chris Marchese F Windsor

47 Brock McGinn F Guelph CAR 2 47

48 Joseph Blandisi F Owen Sound COL 6 162

49 Matthew Campagna F Sudbury

50 Garrett Hooey F Belleville

1 Tanner Pearson F Barrie LAK 1 30

2 Seth Griffith F London BOS 5 131

3 Tanner Richard F Guelph TBL 3 71

4 Zach Mitchell F Guelph

5 Alex Basso D Sarnia

6 Michael Houser G London

7 Mitchell Heard F Plymouth COL 2 41

8 Matt Petgrave D Oshawa

9 Frank Palazzese G Kitchener

10 Riley Brace F Mississauga

N/A Ben Thomson F Kitchener NJ 4 96

N/A Garret Ross F Saginaw CHI 5 139

N/A Clark Seymour D Peterborough  PIT 5 143

N/A Cody Payne F Plymouth BOS 5 145

N/A Colin Miller D SSM LAK 5 151

N/A Brady Austin D Belleville BUF 7 193

Some general comments:

1. Another remarkable day for overage prospects. 9 overagers (or re-entries) from the OHL were drafted. This includes Seth Griffith, who I'm incredibly pleased to see drafted after I was surprised he was passed over last year. This also includes first round pick Tanner Pearson!

2. Dane Fox becomes the highest rated player I've ever had go undrafted. Has to be disappointing for him. I suppose it's not completely surprising because of the "character" issues that seem to surround him, but after talking with him and doing a feature on him this year, he seems like a guy with his head on straight now. Talent wise, he's definitely a top 3 round pick, so hopefully he uses this as motivation next year and has an explosive year on an up and coming Erie squad.

3. I feel bad for Nick Ebert. From potential top 10 pick at this time last year, to the last pick in the entire draft. Ouch.

4. I don't get how Joel Wigle goes undrafted. Teams making a big mistake there. I guess no one got a good enough glimpse of him with his limited minutes this year, but he'll be a big player for Niagara moving forward. He certainly showed me WAY more than a guy like Cody Payne this year (who did get drafted).

5. Also a tad surprised to see two players with great bloodlines in Max Iafrate and Alex Gudbranson not get drafted.

6. Love seeing Ryan Rupert get drafted by the Leafs. Size concerns be damned, this guy can play the game.

7. Biggest head scratcher of the day goes to Pittsburgh drafting Clark Seymour. At one point last year, I had him in my top 50, but he ended up being an honorable mention. He didn't get drafted. This year, he has some injury problems and suspension issues, and never really took that step forward in Peterborough (IMO). Yet...he gets drafted. Don't get this one.

What are your thoughts on the draft this year?

Friday, June 22, 2012

The 2012 NHL Entry Draft

The 2012 NHL Entry Draft begins tonight in Pittsburgh, so it's time to prep you with all the information you'll need.

My Top 50 (and HM's)

Honorable Mentions

Top Draft Re-Entries (or Overagers)

OHL Media Members Pick the Top 10

Final NHL Central Scouting Rankings

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Media Picks the Final Top 10 - 2012 Edition

The 2012 NHL Entry Draft is coming up this weekend. It's about time we completed the trilogy we started way back in November.

Firstly, here are the previous two lists compiled by various members of the OHL media.

Preliminary List (done in November)

Midseason List (done in February)

As always, this list involves contributions from a rather colourful cast of characters. Contributing their rankings and thoughts to this final list for 2012 were:

Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus
David Burstyn of McKeens
Dan Stewart of Future Considerations
Dominic Tiano of OHL Writers
Sean LaFortune of Future Considerations & The
Scott Campbell of The Scouting Report
Nathan Fournier of The World of Junior Hockey
Grant Sonier of ESPN
Patrick King of Sportsnet
Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News

and of course...yours truly.

Here's the list:

10. Malcolm Subban - Belleville Bulls
Received Votes From: 7/11
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 5th (2x)/Outside the Top 10 (4x)
Comments: Subban emerged this season to be the top rated netminder from the Canadian Hockey League. "Subban has been a difficult prospect to gauge all season as he has so many attributes that make you say he could be a real star at the NHL level and then some aspects to his developing game that make you doubt his potential as an NHL starter all together," says one contributor. Part of the reason why Subban has been difficult to gauge is that he's battled injuries, including a groin strain that limited his action throughout the middle part of the season. "I'm definitely concerned about his durability," says a contributor. "Bad groins and goalies go together like vegans and butchers." Another reason he's so hard to gauge is the fact that he's only played the position for 5 years +. But this is something people seem to like about him. "I love the fact that he's THIS good already, without a lot of training. It showcases his natural athletic ability. Once he learns to tune the finer points of the position, the sky is the limit," says a contributor. There's definitely no doubting how talented Subban is (even if he "needs to work on his glove hand," as one contributor put it). "The only stat that really matters is Belleville's record when he was injured compared to when he was healthy. He's a difference-maker every game," says another contributor. It looks pretty likely that a goaltender (or two, or three) could go in round one this year, and Subban is precisely one of those guys.

9. Matt Finn - Guelph Storm
Received Votes From: 8/11
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 5th (1x)/Outside the Top 10 (3x)
Comments: The Guelph rearguard had a breakout offensive season after establishing himself as a standout defensive player in his rookie OHL season last year. The explosion offensively definitely helped him climb into the first round on most draft lists. Finn came into the season already known for his strong defensive game and the question became "can he show improvement offensively?" said one contributor.  And did he ever. He finished second to Ceci among defensemen in goals, assists and points while also improving on an already solid defensive game." It's his hockey sense and projection as a guy who can contribute at both ends of the ice that gives him his allure. He's also someone who projects as a powerplay quarterback at the next level. "Finn boasts an absolute laser beam of a point shot, one of the better ones in the draft, a permanent fixture on the PP as a result, solid on special teams," says a contributor. Another contributor agrees, "he's so smart and calm with the puck. I just love how he avoids the forecheck and starts play in the opposite direction." That said, he doesn't come without his warts. For as hard as he's worked to get to the level of play he's achieved, he still has some things he needs to work on. The most important of which is his skating, which one contributor says, "lacks fluidity and he needs to improve upon his quick twitch muscles for faster time out of the gate." This, in combination with his average size, scares another contributor. "Finn is a bit of a wildcard because we’re not sure what we’re getting when projecting to the next level. He’s undersized and is a pretty average skater, but he does a lot of things well to make up for it. If Finn develops like many feel, he could be a solid offensive contributor who competes hard and doesn’t give up an inch without a fight. Conversely, he could struggle to ever establish himself as an NHL depth guy. I have some faith in Finn, but I definitely think a team is rolling the dice a bit with him without knowing what they’re going to end up with."

8. Tom Wilson - Plymouth Whalers
Received Votes From: 8/11
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 5th (1x)/Outside the Top 10 (3x)
Comments: For his tenacity and throwback power forward style, few players available from the OHL have generated as much buzz as Wilson for this year's draft. He's completely polarized scouts thanks in part to a wavering offensive game, one that did find itself during the OHL postseason where he averaged a point per game. Look no further for proof, as I provide to you these opposing opinions. One contributor says, "One of my favorite prospects this year, Wilson is what many NHL teams are looking for these days. A big power winger who can do a bit of everything. He can skate, score goals, win battles along the wall, play strong defensively, make the devistating body checks, intimidate with his size and drop the gloves. While he does not look to have top line NHL offensive talent he could be a big contributor in a second line role in the near future." Another contributor agrees. "I love his projectable upside. You don’t see to many players with his combination of size and projetable upside. He has the ability to change a game in so many ways. He can play aggressive on the forecheck, make a smart pass, drive the net and bat in a rebound, or drop the gloves and change the momentum of a game. Now, some will look at his point totals this season and suggest that he has limited offensive upside, but that’s the danger of judging players solely based on points. In multiple viewings this year over the course of many months, he showed some very impressive improvements with the puck." On the other hand, another contributor says, "I wouldn't use a first on him. I like his physicality, but I don't see his goal scoring ability translating to the NHL." Whether you like him or not, the reality is that he's going to go high in the draft. Perhaps even higher than you'd think. "I'd be VERY surprised if he makes it through the NHL lottery (top 14)," says one contributor. Another suggests the same thing. "based on sources, he's not sliding past 15." Bottom line, they sure don't make them like they used to and players like Wilson don't grow on trees.

7. Slater Koekkoek - Peterborough Petes
Received Votes From: 9/11
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 5th (1x)/Outside of the Top 10 (2x)
Comments: Despite suffering a season ending shoulder injury, Koekkoek actually climbed up the final list from 8th at midseason to 7th. Perhaps part of the reason for this was his work at the combine where "he showed up in great shape and was determined to make an impression," says one contributor. More than likely, the main reason is the realization that Koekkoek might have the most potential of any defenseman available from the OHL this season (including the likes of Cody Ceci). "I love Koekkoek’s upside and feel he’s the true homerun pick in this draft. He’s got size, skating ability, offensive awareness, and some grit that embodies a potential franchise defenseman. Without lauding him too much, Koekkoek is plagued by some inconsistency and defensive gaffes, but I really believe he has the potential to be as good as any player in this draft when it’s all said and done," says a contributor. Before the injury, Koekkoek was working his way to finding consistency in his game, but showed flashes of brilliance. "Scouts will gravitate towards his performance last season as an under-ager at the World U18 Championships as he dominated both physically and offensively. He also showed tremendous offensive poise with the puck this season for the Petes as he played upwards of 35 minutes and his injury was a primary reason that the Petes fell out of the playoff picture," says a contributor. But when we're talking potential, we're often talking about a player who has all the parts but hasn't yet become the sum of them (if that makes sense). Koekkoek has all the talent, but had a lot of trouble putting everything together in his sophomore season. "He needs to work on his defensive zone coverage and he's got a lot to learn in picking his spots to rush the puck, and to go for the big hit," says a contributor. Koekkoek is 100% one of the wild cards of this draft and the team drafting him will be banking on him coming back strong in his 3rd OHL season.

6. Brendan Gaunce - Belleville Bulls
Received Votes From: 11/11
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 4th (1x)/8th (4x)
Comments: Everyone seems to like Gaunce for this year's draft. It's just a matter of how high you'd draft him and how much offensive potential you think he has. "He has slipped down my rankings as the season wound down. Gaunce will no doubt become an effective NHL player but what type of player is the question at hand. His play this year and the 15-plus viewings of his developing game leads me to believe he will slide into a second or third line centre role at the next level," says a contributor. "I have severe questions about his NHL upside," says another. Yet, I kept reading the same word over and over throughout the responses of contributors. "Future NHL Captain." He exudes leadership capabilities, and even if he doesn't have the NHL upside of the others around him, he does so many things well that make him a valuable pick up inside the top 20 of the draft. "I see a lot of Ryan O’Reilly in Gaunce and even if he tops out as a 2nd line center, he likely ends up being a Top 10 player in this draft," says one contributor. "Gaunce has all the tools that you look for in a potential second line centre at the next level. His biggest asset is his hockey sense and anticipation skills. He has the ability to read the play two to three plays ahead, and anticipate it. This makes him valuable at both ends of the ice," says another contributor. "Gaunce needs to improve in some areas, but he's a hard worker and a really well spoken kid. I look at the improvements his brother Cameron made in his time in the OHL, and I find myself getting excited about what the future holds for Brendan. He has the chance to develop into a terrific NHL player. The type of guy NHL teams win cups with," says a contributor. Definitely some kind words there.

5. Olli Maatta - London Knights
Received Votes From: 11/11
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 3rd (3x)/8th (1x)
Comments: Maatta really moved up many draft boards after a terrific playoff performance with London on their road to the Memorial Cup. However, he wasn't just dialed in during the postseason. "He wasn't just good in the playoffs. He was good in the final two months of the regular season too. Hard to believe it took as long as it did for people to take notice of his game," says one contributor. The smooth operating two way defenseman does have his detractors who believe he lacks the upside of a potential lottery selection. "I’m not sure about his long term offensive potential. He had a good playoffs, but I don't see that as who he is, more of an exception to the rule," says one contributor. Another contributor agrees. "He's steady and a good bet to be an NHL defenseman, but there are other guys I prefer because I think they'll bring more to the table." Yet, it's that notion of being a surefire NHL defenseman that is alluring to certain contributors. "I’m convinced that Maatta will be a steady defenseman for a long time in the NHL. While he showed some late season offensive prowess, I think his game projects at the NHL level as an unspectacular two-way defenseman who can log minutes in all situations. He might not be the sexy pick, but in terms of value, I think Maatta brings a ton to the table that NHL teams would love to add," says a contributor. "As the season wore along you could see his confidence grow as he started to jump into the offensive play a little more and create more chances. His playoffs with London was very impressive and has left the door on his potential wide open in my opinion. While I am not confident enough to say he will be a point producer at the NHL level, I also am no longer confident; unlike I was earlier this year, to tag him as a defensive defender," says another. Like Tom Wilson, Maatta's postseason play has opened the eyes of many and showed a side of him that many were unsure he possessed.

4. Radek Faksa - Kitchener Rangers
Received Votes From: 11/11
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 3rd (3x)/7th (1x)
Comments: While Faksa seems to have separated himself from Gaunce as the 3rd best forward available from the OHL, he hasn't escaped similar concerns about his NHL upside. "I’m not sold on Faksa, but there’s no doubt that he looks like he’s capable of playing in the NHL. Faksa is a big centre who has good skating ability, positioning, and two-way awareness. I question his overall offensive upside and creativity," says one contributor. Another agrees, "Faksa does have some areas to work on and I have some questions about his long term offensive upside." But, like Gaunce, there are a lot of things Faksa does well that gives him his fans among NHL scouts. "He already has NHL size, plays the two way NHL game and put up over a point per game in his rookie season. That's impressive. I also like the fact that he can play both wing and center," says a contributor. "Shades of Bobby Holik," says another contributor, who continues. "He may be the best defensive forward in this year's draft, as he routinely comes back to help out in the defensive zone, sometimes as far back as behind his own goal. He's also unmovable on the boards and in front of the net as he maintains good positioning." In the end, you're probably winning with either Faksa or Gaunce as your first round pick, but one contributor cements his opinion on why Faksa is the better selection. "I think be brings many of the same things Gaunce does, but he's also a quicker skater and better at carrying the puck at full speed, which makes him more of a threat in the new, fast paced NHL."

3. Cody Ceci - Ottawa 67's
Received Votes From: 11/11
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 2nd (1x)/7th (1x)
Comments: Ceci remains in 3rd place from our midseason list, fighting off a late season charge from Olli Maatta. His game really exploded in his 3rd season in the league. "I could see him playing in the NHL next season. I think he's physically mature enough," says one contributor. But what about the knock against his inability to use his size defensively? One contributor doesn't see that as an issue. "He has been knocked for not using his physical size enough but with some of the best understanding of body positioning in the entire draft he is more than effective without needing to be a bruiser. Ceci is the type of future top four NHL defender that does all the little things a team needs to win and can also add that series clinching goal." And while his defensive game does tend to get mixed reviews, his offensive game is what sparkled this year. "His shot is an absolute cannon, and he likes to jump into the rush to use it and act as a fourth forward at times. He has free reign to look for offense," says one contributor. "One of the best offensive defenseman in the league, " says another contributor. That being said, not everyone is convinced his offensive game will translate well to the NHL. "While his offensive game made great strides this year, I think he has moments of poor judgment with the puck (especially at the blueline), and his ability to rush the puck is generally overrated," says one contributor. Anyway you slice it, the development curve Ceci has shown over the course of his 3 years in the OHL is mighty impressive.

2. Alex Galchenyuk - Sarnia Sting
Received Votes From: 11/11
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 1st (1x)/3rd (1x)
Comments: Surgery smugery. At least that's the vibe I got from many people when asking if they were concerned about his knee injury this season. "I wouldn't be scared off by the injury. He's got a competitive fire that burns so brightly within him, he won't allow himself to become just average," says one contributor. Anyone who reads Alex's stuff on or follows him on twitter knows that he's quite the character. But even if the injury doesn't concern people moving forward, the lost year of development might. "I have no doubt that his offensive skills will translate to the next level, but a lost year of development is a lost year, and for a 17 year old hockey player, the question needs to be asked if it will affect him?" says a contributor. As for what he can bring to the table, who better to hear from than the contributor who ranked him first. "I’ve been in Galchenyuk’s corner since last season and feel he projects to be the top offensive player from this draft. While he’s a little more raw than a guy like Yakupov, and obviously the injury didn’t help, I think his smooth style of play will allow him to become a PPG type forward in the NHL. I love his ability to find soft spots in the defense and he has a great release. I will say that he likely needs another year of junior to make up for this past season." When he's healthy, we're looking at a potential impact center who is tenacious, skilled, and able to play in all three zones. Definitely worth the risk and it explains why he's ranked as high as he is. Although, maybe it also has to do with a "subpar group of forward prospects this year," as one contributor puts it.

1. Nail Yakupov - Sarnia Sting
Received Votes From: 11/11
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 1st (10x)/2nd (1x)
Comments: Why don't we start off with a comment from the guy who ranked him second. "There’s not much you can’t like about Yakupov’s game but I’m very concerned about his ability to hold up at the next level without injury. Yakupov’s explosive style of play and fearless attitude have already opened up discussion about injuries and frankly, I could see them becoming a problem for him in the NHL as well. He could try and adjust his style of play but that would likely be counterproductive." This is definitely a valid point. Another contributor agrees. "The apparent concussion and his play post injury scared me a bit. He plays the game so hard, can keep it up?" But even if talks of durability are out there, the positives obviously outweigh the negatives. "Clutch, dynamic, game changer are just some of the adjectives that will make Yakupov the first Russian taken number one since Alex Ovechkin and only the third Russian ever to go number 1," says one contributor. "His best asset is his mobility and acceleration. He has an extremely strong lower body, specifically his legs. He uses his legs to generate top end speed and mobility. He has the ability to turn on a dime, as he takes very hard and aggressive edges," says another contributor. At this point, the only question remaining is (as one contributor put it), "Definitely a number one pick but the question remains will Edmonton select a forward for a third straight year?" I guess we'll see on Friday night!

Honorable Mentions:

Scott Laughton - Oshawa Generals (7 votes)

"Reminds me a ton of Mike Richards. Great in all three zones. Aggressive and tenacious. He also had underrated skill and playmaking ability. Should definitely be a first round pick after his Under 18 performance."

"Love this kid’s work ethic and grit. At one point I was thinking of sliding him towards the end of round two in the rankings as he had trouble producing offensively. Towards the tail end of the year and during his U18 play he made me reconsider him."

"One of the best two way forwards available in the draft who can also put up points. His defensive game is about as NHL ready as they come."

"Laughton may be the smartest, most competitive draft eligible player for the NHL Draft. He always brings a high complete level, and is the kind of player who is willing to do whatever it takes to win. He will block a shot, make a strong offensive play, back check or drop the gloves if it could equal team success."

Daniil Zharkov - Belleville Bulls (3 votes)

"Extremely high upside with his size, speed, and skill combination. Some concerns about his hockey sense, but certainly not about his skill level with the puck."

"He seems to be a player who has a ton of skills, but at times he doesn’t know what to do with it. He will skate into defenders instead of passing off the puck when he had the opportunity. He often seems unaware of his surroundings, and needs to know where everyone on the ice is at all times. He often gets cause with his head down in all three zones, which is something that needs to change before he moves forward. Although he has a long way to go before reaching his potential, you have to like the player that he one day could become."

Adam Pelech - Erie Otters (1 vote)

"I’ll be clear, I don’t expect Pelech to develop into anything more than a 3-5 defenseman, but in a draft that lacks depth, that sounds pretty good to me if I’m an NHL team. Pelech has a lot of projectable NHL skills and I love his ability as a shutdown defenseman. He’s got a long reach and does a great job maintaining gap control and knowing when to take the body. I think he could develop into a real strong second pairing defenseman who can match up against any line on the other team without being a defensive liability."

Jake Paterson - Saginaw Spirit (1 vote)

"Any questions over his big game potential were erased in the playoffs. We're only scratching the surface of his true potential."

Thanks again to all my contributors to these lists this season. Couldn't have done it without you and your candid comments. I look forward to another season next year!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ivan Hlinka Selection Camp Named

Hockey Canada has named the selection camp roster for this summer's Ivan Hlinka (Under 18) tournament.

There were no real surprises from the OHL.

The following OHL players were named to the camp and will have an opportunity to play for coach Todd Gill:

G - Spencer Martin
D - Chris Bigras
D - Aaron Ekblad
D - Darnell Nurse
D - Jordan Subban
F - Nick Baptiste
F - Jason Dickinson
F - Max Domi
F - Hunter Garlent
F - Stephen Harper
F - Bo Horvat
F - Ryan Kujawinski
F - Zach Nastasiuk
F - Stephen Nosad
F - Brent Pedersen
F - Nick Ritchie
F - Brandon Robinson

Good luck to those guys in August!

For the full camp roster, click HERE.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

My Final Top 50 OHL Players for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft - Part 4: 10-1

I bring you the epic conclusion to my Top 50; the top 10! Hope you've enjoyed the ride.

10. Daniil Zharkov - F - Belleville Bulls
Zharkov has the chance to become a very special prospect. His size, skating, and skill package is going to be very alluring to NHL clubs. At 6'3 and 200lbs, he skates exceptionally well and looks great on the big ice in Belleville where he has lots of room to move. His first few steps are particularly explosive and this allows him to be a very difficult player to defend against as he drives to the net. Zharkov is also blessed with exceptional hands and offensive creativity. He makes defenders miss constantly in the offensive zone and keeps plays alive by keeping the puck on a string. Zharkov also has a terrific shot, especially on the one timer. He gets it off quickly and accurately. The problem is that he's still trying to figure things out offensively. This could point to a lack of hockey sense, or simply a lack of experience playing at a high level. He can float at times in the offensive zone, waiting for teammates to set him up for the one timer, rather than getting his nose dirty in the corners or making things happen himself. And at times when he has the puck, he can commit turnovers by making one move to many, or by skating with his head down. He needs to learn how to play aggressively every shift and really use his size to his advantage. His overall intensity level is wavering, as at times he'll be engaged physically, and other times not so much. I felt like his defensive zone play improved over the course of the season, and by the end of the year he had actually become a pretty good shot blocker and a guy not afraid to take a hit to make a play in his own end. As I said, if he figure out things in the offensive zone and learn to play better away from the puck, he could be a real force. He probably has the most potential of any forward not named Yakupov or Galchenyuk. Be sure to check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager. Also, check out Daniil in action courtesy of HPTV.

9. Scott Laughton - F - Oshawa Generals
No forward in this crop did more for their draft stock in the final few months of the season than Scott Laughton. While several of the team's top players were away during December, Laughton really took off offensively with the increased ice time. It was from then on that he became a two way beast, playing in all situations for the Generals. Laughton is a jack of all trades center who does pretty much everything well. What makes him so effective is how aggressive he is at all times. He is a very difficult player to play against at both ends of the ice. He's not incredibly big, but he's a bull on the puck and very hard to separate from it. He's aggressive in driving to the net and has surprisingly good hands which allows him to be deceptively dynamic. He catches defenders by surprise at times by how well he can carry the puck. Laughton is also excellent along the boards. He's a very effective forechecker who can force turnovers and work the cycle to wear down opposing defenses. It was his forechecking ability and hard work along the wall which made him so effective at the Under 18's, where I felt like he was one of Canada's top players. Laughton was also one of the top face-off men at the tourney, a very valuable skill for a strong two way centerman. The real stickler among scouts appears to be what his high end potential is; can he be a top 2 line center, or is he more likely a solid 3rd line guy (which means there is little separation between Laughton and a guy like Brady Vail).? I remember scouts having this same debate about a guy in 2003 named Mike Richards, and he turned out alright. I see Laughton as a very comparable player at the same age. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager. Also, check out Scott in action courtesy HPTV.

8. Malcolm Subban - G - Belleville Bulls
Like his brother P.K., Malcolm is an incredible athlete. He makes highlight reel saves look easy because he's such a terrific skater and is so agile. He takes away the bottom of the net so well and has terrific reaction time. He anticipates the play very well and goes crease to crease with ease. It's remarkable that he's only been playing goaltender since he was 12. But because of that inexperience in the crease, he's very raw and can rely too much on his athleticism. Because a lot of his saves are reactionary, his rebound control can suffer, kicking juicy opportunities into the slot. He also needs to be more aggressive in challenging shooters and requires more coaching to perfect his angles. His glove hand is a work in progress too, and is clearly an area targeted by other teams. I watched a few games this year where it was obvious teams were targeting the upper part of the net and his glove hand. Some teams probably absolutely love how raw he is in the net though, because he hasn't developed any bad habits yet and they can have their goaltending coach reform his game to their liking. The only other thing that might concern teams is the nagging groin injury he had this year. Due to the nature of his playing style, he could be one of those guys who is injury plagued at the position. While I think Subban is definitely the top goalie available from the OHL, players like Matt Murray and Jake Paterson closed the gap significantly as the season went on. You can listen to Malcolm chat about the draft on The Pipeline Show. For more info, check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager.

7. Matt Finn - D - Guelph Storm
Finn can be classified as a steady Eddie, a very reliable two way defenseman. In his rookie season, he played more of a stay at home game and became a very solid defensive player. However, this year his offensive game exploded and he became a valuable asset at both ends of the ice. Finn's best quality is his ability to see the ice and make smart decisions. Defensively, he's very solid positionally and does a great job of anticipating plays in the defensive zone. He can be physical too, if he needs to be. But he's usually the type to angle off forwards and use his stick to get possession of the puck. His skating is only average, which might scare some teams off because he's also not the biggest, but he competes hard. I think his skating could be improved with added strength. While you'd think his lack of elite speed or acceleration would hinder his ability to rush the puck, he's actually quite effective at it because he's got a lot of confidence with the puck on his stick and remains calm and cool under pressure. Without that added speed element, he might not be able to be a strong puck rusher at the next level, but it's doing the trick for the OHL right now. Finn also makes a terrific first pass out of the zone and generally moves the puck very well. While running the point on the powerplay, he's got a good, hard, low shot which he does well to get through to the net. He's also very sneaky on the point and he looks for opportunities to jump into the slot. But he's generally very smart about his pinches. I love how much he improved this year, which the coaching staff in Guelph apparently attributes to better conditioning. Bottom line is that Finn is a terrific two way defenseman who looks like a very coachable player. He just needs to continue to get stronger and improve his mobility to make him even that more effective. Be sure to check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager. Also, check out Matt in game action courtesy HPTV. Finally, listen to Matt chat about the draft on The Pipeline Show.

6. Brendan Gaunce - F - Belleville Bulls
Is he a top 6 two way center, or a 3rd line checking center? That seems to be the question most scouts are asking themselves. The answer, of course, lies in the future. But right now I'm definitely in the camp that believes in his offensive potential. I think he could easily develop into a bona fide top 6 forward. Insert the common Brock Otten rant about an already solid two-way forward being drafted and pigeon held as a 3rd line center lacking potential (see Ryan O'Reilly, Mike Richards, etc). I think his skating is less of a worry than people make it out to be. His top end speed isn't poor. Once he gets going, he's got a good motor and can be a leader of the rush. It's his first few steps and ability to carry/receive the puck at full speed that hurt him. Gaunce is a guy who's currently most effective when the game slows down a bit, as opposed to working off the rush. So sometimes it looks like he's going slowly, but in reality he's just setting the pace he likes to work at. He's an incredibly patient playmaker who's one of the finest passers in the OHL already. He sees the ice very well and is great at working down low and finding open teammates quickly in the slot. He's got an absolute cannon of a shot, both wrister and slapper, but he'll need to work on his release to get it off quicker. While Gaunce isn't a huge factor on the forecheck, he is a big factor along the boards and he uses his size very well to win battles down low. He's physical and uses that size to create room for his teammates offensively or to push the opposition off the puck defensively. He's already a very solid player in all three zones and is a good penalty killer. Bottom line is that I feel his potential as a puck possession player, in addition to his ability to set up plays for his linemates makes him a definite top 6 candidate in the future. You don't have to be a dynamic player to be an effective top 6 forward. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager. Also, check out Brendan in game action courtesy HPTV. A must read is Brendan's blog over at Coming Down the Pipe. You can also listen to him chat on The Pipeline Show.

5. Radek Faksa - F - Kitchener Rangers
It's damn close for me between Faksa and Brendan Gaunce as the 3rd best forward available from the OHL. I gave the nod to Faksa because I think he has a bit higher upside due to his edge in skating ability and skill with the puck off the rush. The thing about Faksa is that he's big, but he's also got an explosive first few steps and is surprisingly agile for a big man. He plays off the rush very effectively and is a terrific puck handler. He's just a solid all around offensive player. He's got a great shot which is very accurate, but can also find teammates at top speed. At times I've found him to be a little drive happy and predictable, but his ability to use his teammates is something I expect to develop with time. Faksa is an aggressive player away from the puck and is tenacious along the boards at both ends of the ice. He's particularly very intelligent defensively in his own end and reads the play exceptionally well. His defensive anticipation is terrific and the best of any OHL forward available for this draft. He had some injury issues down the stretch and into the playoffs and didn't look great, which could be a bit concerning. It's possible that he just got worn down in his first OHL season though. The key for Faksa will probably be the development of his physical game. It can be inconsistent. That isn't to say his effort is inconsistent; just his physical aggressiveness with and without the puck. I'd like to see him develop more of a mean streak to match his size, skating and skill combination. It would make him just that much more of an effective player at both ends of the ice at the next level. People always ask me how Faksa and Landeskog compare as players. And that's the big thing that separates them; physicality. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager. Also, catch Radek in game action courtesy HPTV.

4. Cody Ceci - D - Ottawa 67's
Ceci should be the poster child as to why the NHL should keep the late birthday cut off (in September) for the draft. Those late year kids truly do need more development, and mature at a different rate. I think back to how Ceci looked as a fresh faced 15 year old, to now, and marvel at the progression he's undergone. The biggest improvements have been in his skating and overall mobility. The improvements in overall foot speed have been absolutely crucial to his improvements offensively this year. He's always had that big shot from the point which generates offense, but now he's a factor in rushing the puck and has become increasingly aggressive in doing so. As the old adage goes, 6'3, 200lbs puck rushing defenseman don't grow on trees. The improved mobility has also helped him take his defensive game to the next level. He's incredibly difficult to beat off the rush now, probably one of the hardest in the league actually. His focus in the defensive zone has also improved, as he's chasing less and letting the play unfold, trusting his instincts and smarts. If I'm nitpicking, the lack of development in his physical game has disappointed me a bit. It's always a little bit depressing to see a guy with Ceci's size not using it to his full potential. He'll absolutely need to become meaner in the corners and in front of the net if he wants to be a terrific defensive player at the NHL level too. But if I'm an NHL scout, I love the fact that he's improved so drastically every year he's been in the league. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager. Also, check out some clips of Cody at HPTV. Listen to Cody chat about the draft on The Pipeline Show.

3. Olli Maatta - D - London Knights
For me, spots 3 through 6 (Maatta, Ceci, Faksa, and Gaunce) are all pretty interchangeable. In fact, I had Maatta at number 6 not too long ago. But he impressed the hell out of me in this year's OHL playoffs and I just had to give him the nod over the other three for that reason. Every time I saw him play this season, I kept asking myself, "How is this guy not putting up more points?" While he wasn't a huge factor in leading the rush, he was aggressive in jumping up in the play as the trailer, and looked great quarterbacking the powerplay. As the year went on, those points slowly crept onto the board, until his big explosion in the playoffs. He finished with 23 points in 19 games and really took his game to the next level. He was oozing confidence offensively, and I think that's all he really needed. Let's not forget that Maatta is one of the youngest players available for the draft (late August birthday), and a guy playing his first season in North America. Who's to say that his offensive production in the playoffs isn't what he's truly capable of? Speaking of offense, I love how well he starts the breakout. While he's not terrifically effective in rushing the puck into the zone (because his top end speed isn't great), he is calm and cool with the puck in his own end. He has no problem making quick and smart first passes out of his own end. He's also a very fluid skater and has great agility, which allows him to avoid the forecheck and skate the puck out passed his blueline with great efficiency. This is important because Maatta's bread and butter is his strong defensive game. Having a terrific stay at home guy who can calmly pass or skate the puck out of your own end does wonders for starting the breakout. Speaking of that agility, his effortless skating ability allows him to stay with defenders off the rush, and he has a really smart stick which he gets in passing lanes. He's also more physical than his penalty minutes would indicate. While there's more room to grow, he's not afraid to rub a guy out along the boards or put a stick into the back in front of the net. Maatta is also a terrific defender in coverage, as he reads and reacts to the play well, and remains confident in letting the play come to him. The way I see it is, we're looking at a guy just hitting the tip of the iceberg in his development, and not the other way around as some scouts have described him. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager. You can listen to Olli chat about the draft at The Pipeline Show.

2. Alex Galchenyuk - F - Sarnia Sting
What a roller coaster of a season. Tearing his ACL in the preseason, but fighting hard all season to come back in time for Sarnia's brief stint in the playoffs. A pretty remarkable turn around and it showed an extremely high level of character and determination. It certainly doesn't erase the injury concerns moving forward, but being a quick healer and hard worker should help to partially leave a positive taste in scouts' mouths. When Alex returned to play, you could see how high his talent level was, even if his skating strength hadn't returned. He was also tentative without the puck and hesitant to engage physically.. But what can you expect? The fact that he was able to put some points up on the board shows you how much skill he truly has. It's only fair to evaluate him based on his game last year. It's funny how quickly people forget the type of player you are. Alex isn't just a one dimensional offensive player. He's got a mean streak, is aggressive with and without the puck, attacks the net hard, and plays both ends of the ice very effectively. People forget that because he didn't do that in his brief return this year, but when he's healthy, I fully expect him to return to that form. And that form made him so effective because it combined with his great skating ability, size, and absolute dynamic offensively ability to form a player who flat out dominated shifts in many occasions. He's got unbelievable hands and can make moves at high speed. This, in combination with his size, balance and ability to protect the puck, made him very, very difficult to stop on drives to the net. He's got a good wrist shot, but his bread and butter lies in his playmaking ability and vision. He's an absolutely terrific passer. If Alex was healthy this year and able to follow his natural progression path, I truly think he could have given Yakupov a run for his money. Instead we're talking about whether a GM is willing to take a chance on him early, despite a serious injury and missing development year. My money is on yes. Be sure to read Alex's blog over at Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager. Also, check out the clips HPTV has accumulated of Alex. Finally, listen to Alex chat about the draft at The Pipeline Show.

1. Nail Yakupov - F - Sarnia Sting
Does this really come as any surprise? Once Galchenyuk went down with an injury, Yakupov took the first overall ranking and ran with it all the way to the bank. He's as dynamic of a player as you'll find and probably the most explosive player I've seen in the OHL in some time. His first few steps are absolutely incredible. He forces a ton of turnovers because he's so quick on the forecheck. He especially loves to close in on rushing defenseman as they cross the blueline. His shot is top notch and 100% NHL caliber. He can fire a laser from pretty much anywhere inside the blueline and hit a corner of the net. His puck carrying ability is outstanding, and in combination with his speed and agility, this makes him a load to stop coming down the wing. His defensive game still needs work to be truly NHL caliber, but it improved a lot this year. He was much more active in the backcheck and along the boards in his own end. He also took a massive step forward in the way he uses his linemates and showed another quality to his game. Anybody that played with him instantly became better. I'm sure there's not much more to tell you about him other than what you already know. The only thing I will mention is his health. After taking that hit from Mike Halmo, he was never really the same player and had a pretty brutal playoff series against Saginaw. A lot of people I've talked to tend to think he was battling post concussion syndrome. Like Alex Ovechkin, the key to his success lies in his aggressive nature. If an injury forces him to refine his game, he'll still have the skill but he won't be as effective. The only question remaining is, do the Edmonton Oilers draft him? Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager. Also, check out some clips of Nail in action at HPTV. You can listen to Nail chat about the draft thanks to the Pipeline Show.

Well, that's it folks! Another year's Top 50 down. Time to get ready for the Draft on June 22.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

My Final Top 50 OHL Players for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft - Part 3: 30-11

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!